Continuing the epic story of Tyrone, Annette, Sarajo, and myself on our weekend roadtrip from Waconia, MN to Fargo, ND--and back again! Check out Part 1 HERE. At this point in the trip we were taking Uber around to let poor Sj stop sober-driving us all over creation. We left off with Prairie Rose Meadery...
From there we were meeting some of Annette's cool family (she's almost a local) at Rhombus Guys Pizza. Apparently this place started as a smoothie stand in the early 2000's, changing into a pizza place in Grand Forks, spreading a pseudopod into Fargo, and now they even have a small brewery! The brewery itself is in Grand Forks, but the Fargo site just started serving the beer prior to our arrival. Like they knew were coming! They had a lot of cool and unusual pizzas to offer and all of us were happy with our choices. The brewery itself hasn't been open long and the beers still need a bit of time in my opinion. I tried the Into The Darkness porter which I gave a 3 and an "OK", as well as the Octoberfest which I gave a 3.5 and noted that it tasted more like an ale. Still, cool to try another brewery's beers that we can't get in Minnesota!
Next up after taking our leave of Annette's family was the nearby Viking themed Drekker Brewing. Located very close to Wurst Bier Hall, this place has a great location in the center of the city. The space is long and narrow with a fair amount of seating and a decent sized brewery set-up in the back. This is a fairly young brewery and feels a bit like the paint just dried. They had a lot of beers to choose from for such a new place--even splitting a couple of samplers our group didn't try everything. Looking at my Untappd notes (which were getting spotty by this time of night) I gave most of their beers between 3-3.5 stars. My favorite of theirs was the Coffee Broken Rudder, an Irish red ale that was very well done and unusual (4 star). My least favorite was the Azacca Attacka pale ale with plastic phenols (2.75). Overall, a cool space with a fair amount of money behind it, but it seems a little too nice, like they haven't really found their own vibe yet. The beers still need a little work to make me search them out, but not bad. Drekker is still young so I'll let them practice a bit!
|Ty showing off his inner Viking!|
At this point in our long day we were feeling a bit like Hunter S. Thompson on his addled journey through the Nevada desert. The night was dark, but we were shiny. We tramped around downtown Fargo. We spent time ogling the theater with thousands of colorful bra's dangling from it. We molested a couple of large painted bison to the disgust and dismay of NDSU fans everywhere. In a bison-tinged haze, we kept moving to avoid crowds of pitchfork wielding peasants.
We next found ourselves as if by magic in front of Fargo's only distillery--Proof! This is a craft distillery specializing in Vodka and Gin. Unusual (compared to Minnesota) is the fact that they can actually serve food at this distillery. They had a tapas type menu from a small restaurant on one side of the large open building, but we were too full on sausages and pizza for any more sustenance. The place is big with high ceilings, but separated into areas by a strangely oriented bar and some other oddly angled seating. The bizarre angles and height differences made for an weird vibe and a feng shui would offend the ancestor spirits and nature spirits alike. Lovecraft would be proud. There was a very strong monkey-cages-at-the-zoo aroma permeating the place that I found very distracting. This rotting and fermenting silage smell hints at poor cleaning and grain removal in the distillery itself since I didn't see any poo-flinging monkeys around. We asked our server for a sample of the vodka to decide which type of drink we wanted and our server was very obliging. However, the vodka had a very strong aroma reminiscent of nail-polish remover or rubbing alcohol. Avoiding the vile vodka, we all ordered some Minions Gin based cocktails and all were decent but didn't knock our socks off.
Just down the block was a place known for their cocktails, and we were almost in the doors when strangely we looked about ourselves at the graying dawn's light and decided that perhaps we should call this a day and rest up for the following day's planned debauchery. And so we made at least one good decision this fine day. The rest of the bison herd would rest easy...for now...
Oh, and then in a Cold War game of "I can stay up drinking longer than you!" we all ended up at Ty and Annette's nicer-than-ours suite room for some 18% ABV Bruery beers and Cards Against Humanity. Luckily our room was a close stagger down the hall...
The next morning I was up and judging beers at 9 AM. Turn down those dim basement lights please! The Hoppy Halloween challenge continued and I tried many good beers and meads while trying to provide good feedback. Once the afternoon judging session was over, our group took a quick field trip to the only brewery we didn't get to visit the previous action-packed day: Fargo Brewing Company.
Fargo Brewing Company was the first brewery in Fargo, starting out contract brewing at Sand Creek in Wisconsin fall of 2011, then moving to their own large warehouse facility in 2013. When I first tried their Wood Chipper IPA in can I chuckled over the name, then spat it out in disgust since strong movie theater butter popcorn aromas and flavors abounded. I've avoided them since. But now these guys have their own place and are selling a lot of cans out of their production brewery. They have a lot of room to grow in the current building! The taproom itself was just a small area of warehouse floor near the entrance, cordoned off from the main production floor. They had a small corrugated metal and wood serving bar with about 11 different beers pouring, and a couple of busy bar-tenders serving the small but thirsty crowd. A few etched and scarred picnic tables provided seating for us, and a bunch of games by the door provided additional entertainment options. This is a no-frills working kind of place that reminds me a bit of Lucid's current brewery space--but bigger.
The beers at Fargo Brewing were better than the first time I tried them for sure! Strangely, my favorite was the Fargo Original--a good example of a crisp but malty Helles--which I gave a 4.25. Second favorite was the sweeter Stone's Throw Scottish ale which I gave a 3.75. All the other beers we tried were average to slightly above. I think perhaps they're playing it a bit safe and appealing to the large market of novice craft beer drinkers in North Dakota and don't fault them for it. They are certainly putting out a lot of decent beers!
Returning to our hotel, we finished up the evening with a long and crazy Hoppy Halloween dinner and award ceremony, complete with costume contests (Ty and Annette won that!), homebrews galore, Prairie Rose meads, medals, and more! This is hands down the most fun I've ever had at a homebrew competition and I'm glad we made the drive up for it. And on the way home the next day we stopped at one more brewery--Beaver Island--with another write-up to follow!