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First Bite: Brewer's Table at Surly Brewing
By: Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl | Posted: 08/27/2014
Have you ever wanted to take the kids to a farm brewery, order them a root beer and yourself an IPA, toss the old frisbee around, and show the young’uns how hops grow? If you are any kind of hipster dad (or mom) your answer should be: Heck yeah! That’s totally what I've been waiting for! Well, mark your calendars because it's actually happening on a farm just north of Waseca sometime in the spring of 2015.
Here’s the deal. Mike McQuery grew up in Portland, Oregon, land of beer. One day he found himself to be a talented homebrewer. A friend of his started a farm brewery called Agrarian Ales, near Eugene and Mike thought, dang, I want to do that! (I paraphrase.) But farms in Oregon cost Silicon Valley retiree money.
As luck would have it, McQuery and his wife Amy decided to take a vacation to southern Minnesota to visit her cousins. When they were there, totally by happy accident, McQuery met Charlie Rohwer, the University of Minnesota’s hops guru and a researcher at the University of Minnesota’s Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca. The two got to talking about hops.
Suddenly, Amy was offered a job. And then, just as suddenly, McQuery decided to find out what hobby farms in Waseca cost and what Waseca's official stance on farm brewery taprooms was. They had none so they held meetings and developed one! So they bought the farm. Now McQuery has planted somewhere between two-thirds of an acre and an acre of hops, and is hoping to start construction soon on the taproom. If all goes well he will get it roughed in before the ground freezes, so he can finish it over the winter. Then, he’ll start to brew, and then you can pack your kids and frisbee in the car and show the kids what hops look like.
“We just love it here,” McQuery told me. “Everyone in Waseca has been so inviting. I think in the beginning we want to start with basic stuff, porters, stouts, and then ginger ale and root beer for the kids. When we get going, we’ll grow stuff on the farm to use in beers—raspberries, pumpkins. I think it will take a few years but eventually our hop yard will provide a lot of hops for our beers. And it feels so good to live on a farm. The kids were a big reason we felt like this was a good move, the schools here are so great. My son used to be in a kindergarten class of 30, now in Waseca he’s in a class of 12. My wife can’t believe there’s no traffic. As much as I miss my family, this is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
So everybody! Extend a friendly welcome to our new brewer to the southwest, watch their Facebook page breathlessly for news of the exact opening date, and start planning your family day trips of 2015.
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a senior editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.See bio
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