Westbound to #Homebrewcon
If you are traveling to Minneapolis from the eastern United States for Homebrewcon 2017, you will probably be driving in along Interstate 94. This is the main throughway to get from central Wisconsin into Minnesota.
You will probably need to stop for refreshments at some point, and these are some of the local breweries. I’ve either visited their breweries/tap rooms or had some of their beers. I can highly recommend all of the breweries, although each produces a beer I acknowledge is good for the style, but just doesn’t fit my preference.
I have listed the standard days these locations are open. However, you will want to check each web site for specific hours as they vary widely.
Eau Claire currently has 3 active breweries I’m aware of. Each brewery has its own vibe and style, and each produces good beer.
Lazy Monk Brewing (Open Daily)
Lazy Monk Brewing is a brewery I have a special attachment to. The owner and brewer, Leos, was one of the founding members of my homebrew club. He was in the process of starting the brewery at the time I was beginning to homebrew. He was the only one consistently doing lagers, as he was developing recipes for his traditional lager brewery. His flagship Bohemian Pilsner is validation of why Pilsner became the dominant beer style before big breweries watered it down. In addition to great lagers, Leos makes a wide variety of beer styles, including IPAs, stouts, and bier de garde. Some brews are seasonal, so not everything is always available.
For completely biased reasons, Lazy Monk makes what is probably my favorite all-time beer. Their winter seasonal is a Baltic Porter that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Not only does it taste good, every sip transports me back to the first batch of it he produced in a commercial setting: during a tour for our homebrew club, we got to sample some of the first batch straight out of the fermenter during active fermentation.
Lazy Monk’s taproom resembles a traditional Czech/German Bier Hall. Dark woods contrast against white walls and provides a cozy, inviting spot to relax and hoist a few half-liters with friends and new friends.
The Brewing Projekt (Tap Room Wednesday-Sunday)
The Brewing Projekt is a brewery that likes to take a beer style, give it a few drinks, take it to a party and watch it walk around slightly off-kilter. While they make a great straightforward Scotch Ale (Auld Alliance), many of their beers are given a twist that makes them lean a tad off-balance. One of my favorites of theirs is Gunpowder, a delicious IPA brewed with green tea.
K-Point Brewing (Tap Room Wednesday-Sunday)
K-Point Brewing is a newer brewery in Eau Claire. They’ve been open since May, 2016, and are connected to The Coffee Grounds, a coffee-roaster; specialty beer, wine, and spirits shop; and they also have a small kitchen. They focus on making “beers that are never out of style and always good.”
If you are passing by on Monday or Tuesday, the Coffee Grounds bottle shop is open even though the tap room is not.
Real Deal Beer (Open Daily)
Real Deal Beer – Handcrafted is a good description here. Ryan, the head brewer, brews on a Sabco brew magic system so that his beers are fresh. On busy days, he may triple-brew to fill a fermenter, and I can’t argue with the results. Each beer is unique, tasty, and makes me want more.
Lucette Brewing Company (Open Daily)
Lucette Brewing Company – Lucette is named after Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart, and is focused on making consistent beers. The cover a range from spiced blonde ale to stout to Belgian golden ale.
Lucette added a large tap room area with wood-fired pizza in July 2015, making this a great stop for a meal. In addition to their beers, a wide selection of Wisconsin craft beers rotate through their many taps.
Pitchfork Brewing / Paddy Ryan’s (Tap Room Wednesday-Sunday)
The quickest stop for a beer on this route is at Pitchfork Brewing. They are located right at the top of Wisconsin Exit #4 (US Highway 12). Pitchfork has a small taproom where they sell pints and growlers of their beer. The brewer crafts a variety of beers which share space on the tap list with rotating guest beers and a weekly firkin. They’ve also struck up a friendship with their neighbor:
Paddy Ryan’s Irish Pub (Open Daily)
While this is not a brewery, Paddy Ryan’s Irish Pub serves wonderful pub food: sausage and champs, Irish boxties, and lamb stew are a few of my family’s favorites. They have a selection of imported and domestic beers, including a special beer that Pitchfork brewing makes exclusively for Paddy Ryan’s. The Pitchfork Brewing Paddy’s Whiskey Ale is delectable. Stop in before or after #homebrewcon for a satisfying meal. If they are full, you can wait next door in Pitchfork’s tap room.
Rush River Brewing (Tap Room Wednesday-Sunday)
On the northern edge of River Falls, Rush River Brewing has their production facility and tap room. Rush River is focused on making flavorful, well-made ales. After brewing for distribution for many years, their official tap room was opened in 2015.
Swinging Bridge (Tap Room Thursday-Sunday)
Swinging Bridge opened its doors in March, 2017. They brew a constantly rotating variety of beers on their small brewhouse, as well as keeping a variety of guest taps in the lineup. A small menu gets changed up seasonally, based on what is available.
Oliphant Brewing (Tap Room Wednesday-Sunday)
Beers that deviate from your expectations populate the fermenters and barrels at Oliphant Brewing. First and foremost, Oliphant focuses on making great base beers. Then the brewers add different ingredients or techniques to add complexity and variety, without losing the character of the beer.