There was a beer in my hand, and a slice of greasy, gooey pizza on a paper plate in front of me, and for a moment it felt like I was back in college, hanging out late at night on Water Street in Eau Claire. Then I heard a seven-year-old call out “B6,” and there was my son, holding a peach pop, looking for my response after making another strategically poor play in Battleship. I wasn’t in college anymore.
|One sign we were in a Catholic college town. Another was|
the monastery right across the street.
But I was in a college town, drinking in a taproom, wondering why there weren’t more of these in places like this. Beer plus college kids just makes sense, even if the college in question is a Catholic one.
You can’t get to Bad Habit in St. Joseph without driving past the College of St. Benedict, and you shouldn’t visit any Blazers(1) without stopping by Bad Habit. There isn’t much to the taproom – it was by far the smallest room of the ones we’ve hit so far – but it’s worth the stop if you’re in the area, or just driving past on I-94. And while the majority of the taproom’s customers are college-aged, there were plenty of people in there like us, making a stop while on their way to their final weekend destination. I showed off the passport to one such guy sitting at the bar and got plenty of suggestions for where to go next. If a Northern Ale Guide was ordered online sometime last weekend, I think I deserve a cut of that sale.
|Abby and Aric enjoying their peach pop.|
I had the Irish Red and the Belgian Dubbel (because I apparently like to identify my beers with a specific European country), and both were well done. I was jealous of Nicci’s IPA, which had only a hint of the traditional flavor you’d expect from an IPA and was otherwise very easy to drink. (Note: there are two IPAs listed on Bad Habit's website, but neither one was the one Nicci had. I don't remember what hers was called, because I'm a bad blogger. Maybe that was a seasonal thing.) Even the “kid pop” was good – I would have had no problem drinking that if I didn’t want beer, and the kids destroyed theirs and looked for seconds.
Also good, and just as important, was the food. Bad Habit doesn’t make their own, but they have takeout menus from area restaurants, all of which are either in the same building or just around the block. We picked the pizza that looked the greasiest, and we weren’t disappointed. Picture the hole-in-the-wall pizza place you ordered from at 1:00 in the morning on a Saturday in college, and that’s the pizza we got. It’s a scientific fact that grease and beer work best together; as an added bonus, the delivery guy brought it right to our table.
We could have stayed at Bad Habit for a while, but we had to get going. Alexandria was calling, and we promised the kids a trip to the waterpark. Of course, if we were giving the kids a waterpark visit, we were going to take a timeout to visit another taproom, so the next day we spent some time at Copper Trail, which has been open for less than a year. This was another small room, though bigger than Bad Habit. We didn’t stay long at Copper Trail – we were already exhausted, our party of nine couldn’t all sit at the same table, and the kids were far more interested in swimming in chlorine than in watching adults drink alcohol.
Copper Trail is hurt a little by being kind of out of the way; there are all sorts of touristy areas in Alexandria, but this place isn’t near any of them. It’s certainly not walkable. But they had good beer and had the nice touch of drilling cribbage holes right into the picnic tables. When in Alexandria, track them down. And make sure you hit Bad Habit on your way up there.
1. I had always called St. Benedict's students "Bennies," to match the rest of the MIAC schools, but apparently this was wrong. They're the Blazers. Or at least, that's what their sports teams are called.