Monday, May 8, 2017

Northern Ale Guide, Stop 12 - Wenonah Brewing Company

Stamp Number 12: Wenonah Brewing Company, 4065 Sixth Street, Goodview, MN

After traveling north along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border to check out some sites along the St. Croix River for Nicci's birthday, we all had the next day off as well, so we thought we'd head south down the border, on historic Highway 61 along the Mississippi. Our end destination was Winona, home to one of the out-of-the-way locations in our taproom passport, but in between, we stopped to see some eagles.

Now it's pretty easy to see eagles flying along Mississippi River bluffs in southeastern Minnesota - virtually every time we rounded a corner, we saw another eagle or two soaring on the currents. But we weren't going to see eagles flying; we wanted to see them up close.

From left: Aric, Abby, eagle. Yes, the
eagle had large talons. 
The National Eagle Center allows you to do just that. We walked into a room where we were no more than five feet away from four birds, all of whom were too injured (or blind) to be released into the wild. And it's hard to state just how large eagles are until you're face-to-face with them with nothing between the two of you but a short railing. They looked like they could lift up Abby and fly away with her with no issues. Except these birds couldn't fly. They liked talking to each other, though.

But enough about eagles. This is a blog about beer. And once we took the kids to their fun activity, it was time to let the adults have their fun, so we went down to knock off the next stamp in our passport.

Wenonah Brewing Company doesn't spell its name the same way as the city of Winona, which is probably fine because it's a few blocks outside of Winona in the suburb(?) of Goodview. To make things even more confusing, Wenonah is on 6th Street in Goodview, which turns into 5th Street once you've gone too far and crossed the city border into Winona. It's also located in what has to be a former gas station, giving a picture-perfect definition of what makes something a microbrewery.

Proof of visiting Wenonah Brewing. Pictured is their
Simple F****** Golden Ale. I think the F****** stands for
"falafel," but I forgot to ask to make sure.
It's not easy to spot Wenonah Brewing, even with driving directions, but it's worth it if you like your taprooms small and simple. Inside there's a small stage for a musician, a few chairs and tables, and a six-seat bar. And there's no reason to stare at the menu with apprehension, as they only serve three beers. Might as well just try them all.

This is a place to come relax after work, chat with the bartender about the Twins or whatever else. The kids liked it because they had a giant chalkboard at their disposal; I was happy because I snagged the only couch in the place. Nicci was happy because the beer was good, and because it was a great way to celebrate her birthweek.

After leaving Wenonah, we went to Winona to try Island City Brewing. Though not in our passport, that place was more like what you expect from a taproom - long tables down the middle encouraging large groups, spots at the bar and along the side for those feeling less outgoing, and plenty of menus spread around for local food places. We flashed back to our college days and ordered from Toppers, ordered a High Forest red for me and a Moonlight White weisse for Nicci, and tried to figure out why Winona calls itself the Island City when it is not an island.

It was fun driving down the river to see eagles and drink beer. It was not fun driving back on the Wisconsin side and getting pulled over within two minutes, and then later avoiding a collision with a deer by less than a foot. So if you're gonna follow in our footsteps, go to Wenonah in Goodview and Island City in Winona and skip those other things.

I admittedly didn't major in geography, but that doesn't look like an island to me.

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