By Greg Hunt
An impressive guidebook, sized to fit well inside a vehicle's glove box or seat pocket, opens eyes to the fine wines and beers produced right here in Minnesota.
The authors of Wineries & Breweries of Minnesota are Norm Ayen and Shane Weibel, who taught together at Cambridge-Isanti H.S. before Ayen retired and moved to Baltimore. He coaches track & field at John Hopkins University while enjoying his quieter days with wife, Judy.
Weibel is a Social Studies teacher at CIHS, offensive line coach for Bluejacket football, and volunteers his leadership skills with the Venturing program.
Wineries & Breweries has informational sections on 14
wine producers and 22 breweries which are scattered across the state. Each section highlights the products and output of the business, a map, and interesting historical notes about the establishment. Even handy recipes using the local goods are included in many sections, as are special seasonal events tied in with the wines or brews.
While the metro area concentrates many of the listings, readers may be surprised of the home-grown spirits close to Isanti County. Just over in Princeton, there's Luedke's Winery which raises 100-percent of the fruit which goes into their wines. A little longer drive west would get you to the Gluek Brewing Company in Cold Spring, or O'Hara's Brewpub. and Granite City Brewery in St. Cloud. In Chisago City you will find the WineHaven winery which began with a foray into honeywine (or mead).
The first part of the guide offers a good deal of information about wine and beer production, along with a glossary of terms to help you through the selection process.
The comments by both authors show they really enjoyed their tours, and the hospitality level at establishments couldn't be beat. Ayen said, "The wineries were very cooperative and sat down with me providing as much information as we needed. I wasn't surprised how many wineries there were, but I was surprised about wineries north of the cities only do berry wine, and south of the cities do grape wines mostly."
Added beer aficionado Weibel, "The brewers in Minnesota are very skilled and very proud of their beers. Minnesota has all the ingredients needed for a great beer. Minnesota is always represented amongst the medal winners at the Great American Beer Fest. Minnesota can also claim the oldest family run brewery in the United States in Schell's out of New Ulm. Minnesotans I think are open to different styles and tastes of beer as I well. While there's no doubt that products of Milwaukee and St. Louis are the most popular purchased, micro brews have found a receptive audience here. That clientele has allowed local brewers to try all types of recipes."
Asked if all smaller breweries have goals to get their products into local or regional liquor stores, Weibel responded, "Most brewpubs will serve their beers right from the store, Minnesota passed a growler law recently allowing brewpubs to sell a large jug to bring home. In my opinion, the best deal at a brewpub is the sampler platter, inexpensive in price and it allows the customer to try all their beers both regular and seasonals."
Wineries & Breweries of Minnesota is available from Adventure Publications (820 Cleveland St. S. in Cambridge) and at local and regional bookstores.