Vintage Buses and Beer

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The bus travels through downtown Minneapolis

Over the past year or so, the Hennepin History Museum has been trying to raise its profile in the community with a series of evening Night at the Museum events featuring different themes and topics. After our romantic cookie exchange at the museum last year, Lindsay and I have attended some of them, which have always been interesting and full of fun activities and little known facts about local history. We toyed with the idea of robots, learned about bees, saw how the history of pets and bicycles affected the local culture. As I said in previous reports, the Hennepin History Museum is a hidden gem of Twin Cities museums, and each visit has been a treat.

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Interior of the vintage bus (before crowd fills it up)

This summer, the museum hosted, along with another local institution, the Minnesota Transportation Museum, a historical Vintage Bus Brewery tour of Minneapolis. Bringing together three of my interests, local history, public transportation, and beer, it was definitely a blast! One of the highlights of the summer, Lindsay and I boarded the 1950s era GMC Transit buses which served Metro Transit for some years during the ‘50s and ‘60s to be whisked around to several local breweries, all the while listening to interesting facts about the history of the area. Maybe it’s just me, but I find the history of the region’s public transportation fascinating- we were riding in the bus that replaced the streetcar lines across the Twin Cities in a shady bit of corporate grift. The bright colors and lines of the old city bus attracted the attention of passersby as it rumbled through town. The preservation of the vintage bus was immaculate, with its period advertisements and creaking seats, it was like traveling back in time.

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enjoying a beer at Boom Island Brewing

 

Our first stop was at Boom Island Brewing, close to the river. A Belgian-style brewery in North Minneapolis, Boom Island’s beers are earthy and powerful, with enough variety to please just about any beer connoisseur. I had not been there before, but it would definitely be one I’d like to visit again. I particularly liked the Brimstone Trippel and the Cuvee de Boom. While we were visiting, the brewery was hosting a Bayou Blowout Crayfish boil, which was a nice place for me to get my seafood fix along with a beer. Some crayfish fettuccine is just the thing I didn’t know I was craving before setting out!  

Reboarding the bus, the crowd a bit more in our cups than before, we trundled off to our next destination, a stroll across the Stone Arch Bridge. Along the way, we passed through Nicollet Island, our interpreter having to raise his voice a little to be heard over the reveling. Crossing the river, we strolled around the park, walking off some of the beer we already imbibed. St. Anthony Falls, the reason the city was here in the first place, was roaring, the wet weather making it more than twice as full as it would be that time of year on average. The river-scented mist billowing off of the falls dampened us as we watched it flow from the bridge. I also took the opportunity, like so many others on the tour, to capture a few new pokemon on the newly exploding Pokemon Go app. Yep, it was just like being on an actual bus! As for the app, well, that can be an entirely different conversation best saved for another entry.

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View of St. Anthony Falls from the Stone Arch Bridge- photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Our last stop was Day Block Brewery, one of my favorite breweries in Minneapolis, a venue that, in addition to its great beers, offers some intriguing craft cocktails for Lindsay as well! After enjoying a few more libations, and a fairly delicious pretzel to help absorb the booze a bit, we got back on the bus and returned to the Hennepin History Museum. While there are no more tours being offered this year, I’m looking forward to trying out one of the vintage bus history tours of St. Paul breweries next year, and I’d definitely recommend it!

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Preparing to board, outside of Day Block

Light Rail Brewery Crawl: A Twin Cities beer adventure, pt. 1

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The beginning…

Today’s my birthday, but Sunday, I got a few friends together and organized an outing I’d been planning for awhile, a Light Rail brewery tour of the Twin Cities. For the first attempt, I think I’d consider it a success and I learned some tips that I think will help in its next iteration. I use the Twin Cities’ growing light rail transit systems quite regularly, but I definitely could learn more about them. In addition, I definitely need to up my beer connoisseur game, as I think I’m running out of descriptors for beer tasting quite quickly!

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28th Avenue Station Park and Ride- the Blue Line ad already encourages us to drink!

Inspired by the Rails and Ales event, I thought it would be fun to arrange my own, lower key version of this event on a calmer day. I had put together an elaborate plan of eight breweries at seven light rail stops on the Blue and Green lines, and we made it to three of them. We didn’t quite make it into St. Paul, but we did get across the river! All in all, a good time was had and some good beers were sampled.

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First stop: Harriet Brewing

Meeting up at the 28th Avenue Station Park and Ride; it was a Twins Sunday, so I thought it would be good to have a place for those with cars to park. Park and Rides ramps with free parking exist at the 28th Street Station and the Fort Snelling Station on the Blue Line,   Next time, I’d choose a closer station to meet up at. We started on the Minneapolis side, but perhaps beginning in St. Paul would be even better! For small groups, free street parking can probably be found without too much difficult within a short walking distance of many of the stations. You can buy a one day pass for riding the light rail at any of the stations for $6.

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A trio of Harriet’s Pils, and a Sooner or Later Belgian Blonde

So, after meeting up, we rode the rail past the airport into South Minneapolis and got off at Lake Street-Midtown Station, walking a few blocks to the first brewery on the list, Harriet Brewing. Harriet focuses on Belgian style beers, which tend towards complex, spicy flavors. This was evident in the four beers Harriet had on tap that day- most of us went for the Harriet’s Pils, with one trying the Sooner or Later Belgian-style Blonde. Both were good choices for a hot summer day, I felt, with light flavor and a smooth mouthfeel. As we sipped our beers outside on the patio, listening to some live acoustic guitar, it was a nice start. A food truck was parked nearby, providing snacks to go with the beer.

Hitting the Blue Line again, we went into downtown to the Downtown East station, near the looming monolith of the uncompleted stadium which dominates the sky in this part of town, and walked the short distance to Day Block Brewing Company, a spot that opened up on Washington Avenue last year. This brew pub has a large variety of beers on tap to choose from, as well as some delicious food as well.

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Day Block: We’re all very exited to get some food!

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From back to front; Berliner Weisse, Frank’s Red Ale, Belvarin Hefeveisen, Imperial Stout, and the Federales Mild.

Day Block had some local jazz bands performing, and we sampled a wide variety of the offerings here; the Belvarian Hefeweizen, Berliner Weisse, Frank’s Red Ale, and the Imperial Stout. I had the Federales Mild, which was delicious.

Another nice, light beer for summer, this one had a woodsy pine smell courtesy of the fresh pine tips used in the brewing. I think everyone highly enjoyed their choices, and the food we had, pizzas, pretzels, salads, and pickles, were great as well.

For our last stop of the day, and just before the rain started falling, we hopped onto the Green Line and headed across the river to the Prospect Park neighborhood to stop at the vaunted Surly Brewing, exiting on the Prospect Park station. I had not visited this acclaimed and anticipated new “destination brewery” complex, but it was pretty awesome. I will have to return here, for sure.

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We ended the day sipping our beers on the expansive yard in the back of the impressive new building, under the shadow of the interesting industrial ruins of that area of town, old grain silos towering over us as we enjoyed our beverages. I tried the ‘Merica, a “pre-Prohibition” lager which had an extremely herbal nose, so much so that some called it “skunky.” It definitely had a slightly rough flavor, perhaps as was common in pre-industrial days. I quite enjoyed it, personally. Others had the Schadenfreude, a malty Munich lager, the Cacao Bender, which tasted very strongly of chocolate (as it should!) and the old standby, the Bender American Brown Ale.

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‘Merica, Cacao Bender, Schadenfreudes(s), and Bender

Feeling full and happy, we parted ways for the day, just as the rain clouds began to close in. However, we didn’t leave before all being qued up on the Untappd app on our phones, which of course, proved very useful in keeping tabs on our beers. I love good list making, of course, so this was a good discovery. Thanks, Weird Dave!

This will definitely not be the last local beer adventure I embark upon. After all, I still have six others on this itinerary alone that I’ve yet to check out, plus I still have plans for a biking brewery tour!

Some photos courtesy of Luke Price.

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Lake Street-Midtown Station, Blue Line, looking north towards Downtown

Beer, Bikes, and Trains

The upcoming Rails and Ales event looks pretty fun, but I’ve been thinking of planning my own public transportation/bicycle pub crawl as well, perhaps for my birthday (which is coming up way too fast, maybe). While planning logistics, I noticed this very helpful article by Brian Martucci on MinnPost the other day, Pedals and Pints. Definitely interesting reading. Also, I might get some hands on experience for planning for biking and drinking at the NE Brewer’s Block Party, organized Sociable Cider Werks, this Sunday. Another Sunday bike ride into Northeast? Of course! Once I get things put together, I’ll report on how my particular bike/light rail pub crawl adventure works out!