Last week, I got out of Brandon for a few days and went to Minot so I could stop feeling cooped up non-stop.
Also, I was using a trip to Minot as an excuse to try as many American craft beers as I possibly could, shop for some new clothes and visit Minot’s insanely popular Souris River Brewing brewpub.
One thing that leaves me perplexed is that Manitoba still doesn’t have a brewpub, and I’m not sure why. Every other region in North America seems to have a booming brewpub culture, but some people here think it’s that all of us are too scared to take on the challenge, expecting it to fail.
But that shouldn’t be the case as it’s more like "If you build it, they will come" — which is exactly what happened for Souris River Brewing.
It’s located right in the heart of downtown Minot, between two grain elevators, so you can’t get any more prairie than that.
Souris River is the defacto "local" brewery for me — a three-hour drive is nothing to taste fresh beer brewed in very small batches.
I met up with chef and owner Daniel Haff, a young veteran of the Afghanistan war, who welcomed me as soon as I walked in.
We discussed beer; I had brought him a few bottles of Canadian treats, including Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde and Fort Garry’s Portage and Main IPA.
According to Haff, as in Manitoba, brewpubs were not economically viable (or allowed) in North Dakota until 2012, when the state government allowed them to open up and brew beer on site.
The laws allowing brewpubs changed in Manitoba at the same time, but unlike in North Dakota, not one entrepreneur has opened one.
Haff got me to sample an incredible array of beers, ranging from a German-style raspberry hefeweizen that was tapped that very day, to a rich vanilla porter that is made with fresh vanilla beans — no extract!
For those who are too picky for any sort of flavour, they also had Bud Light in bottles, though to me, that’s defeating the purpose of visiting a brewpub in the first place. But hey, you can’t alienate your clientele I guess!
One thing that really pulled me to the brewpub is that they had a poutine burger on the menu — a POUTINE burger ... not a poutine on a bun ... not a poutine and a burger ... but an actual poutine on top of a fresh North Dakotan beef patty. How Canadian is that?
Frankly, it was amazing and it used mainly locally sourced ingredients — a ciabatta roll from Sweet & Flour bakery, the best beef North Dakota has to offer, a homemade thick beef gravy made with their house porter to give it a bit of a beer kick to it, fresh cut french fries, and to top it off, battered squeaky cheese curds with a hint of chili flakes to give it a hot touch on the tongue.
The gravy was slowly drooling out and I kept picking the curds off the burger to snack on them, as if they were popcorn chicken. For poutine geeks like myself, this is a must try.
My favourite beer at Souris River Brewing had to be FFOK Imperial India Pale Ale. FFOK was a big favourite of mine the first time I visited the brewpub during the North Dakota State Fair last year.
It’s a great take on a West Coast style Imperial IPA, incredibly hoppy with notes of pine and grapefruit, and it’s unfiltered to give it a thick murky appearance that’s as thick as the Souris River. This is one of the absolutely best Imperial IPAs I’ve ever had — very comparable to Half Pints’ Humulus Ludicrous, which is released every autumn in small batches.
For those who aren’t fans of overly bitter beers like I am, SRB’s East Brown and Down, which is a tribute to the American comedy Eastbound and Down, is a nice brown ale. A bit nutty, this slightly roasted malt is similar to a Fort Garry Dark Ale.
So, if you are ever in Minot, a visit to Souris River Brewing is a must for those who want to treat themselves to a fresh-from-the-tank beer and a poutine burger. Come on, are you seriously going to go on a vacation to Minot and drink Bud Light and eat at restaurants you can find in Winnipeg?
Souris River Brewing is located at 32 Third Street NE — and for you music fans, they have live bands playing nearly every evening.
For the best selection of beer in Minot, Marketplace Liquor off Broadway Avenue and 20th Ave SW is a must visit. Every time I visit, I can’t ever decide what to buy.
Marketplace has the Canadian classics like Canadian, Blue and Kokanee but also the real good beers, such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bell’s Oberon Ale, and a wide mixture of beers from Colorado’s New Belgium brewery, including large bottles of collaboration brews they worked on with breweries such as Tampa’s Cigar City Brewery and Montreal’s Dieu du Ciel.
You’re generally going to be paying about $10 for a 6-pack of American craft beer, which is pricey compared to the $18 price tag for 30 Miller High Life Light.
However, the American craft beer scene is one of the best beer scenes on the planet — after Canada, of course! (Hint hint)
One taster case I recommend is New Belgium’s Folly box, which includes three cans each of Snapshot Wheat Ale, Fat Tire Amber Ale, Ranger India Pale Ale and Shift Pale Lager — 12 cans of great American beers for $16 or so, absolutely delicious for patio weather.
With the North Dakota State Fair only two months away, I hope you make plans to try some great American craft beers that we can’t get back home.
And, of course, try a poutine burger at Souris River Brewing.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 31, 2014