At first, there was a low rumbling sound, then our bed began to shake. Was this an earthquake? Waking in a bit of a fog, I slowly realized we weren’t in California anymore. As the freight train outside our window moved with a repetitive clanging over its tracks along the Mississippi River, I finally recognized that we were actually in Reads Landing, Minnesota.
It was our cousin Ole’s wedding that weekend, so we decided to arrive a couple days early and stop over to check out the year-old handcrafted brew pub owned by another cousin, Bob Nihart.
Beer + bacon cupcakes + historical building…You know that was a no brainer!
Yup. We were fortunate to grab a room above the Reads Landing Brewing Company and the opportunity to learn about and explore this wonderful and newly renovated establishment. Built in 1869, the historic building was first used as a dry goods store but was eventually sold to the railroad that demolished all but one of the properties to lay track.
Bob’s family purchased this last remaining structure in the 1930s and has owned it ever since. Though it has gone through many changes (once a bar, then a restaurant, and then a family cabin with an upstairs apartment), the original bones have stayed pretty much in tact, maintaining its historical charm and architectural significance.
If you’d like to take a look, pull up a stool and enjoy this virtual tour of the Reads Landing Brewing Company.
The exterior and facade of Read’s Landing Brewing Company (RLBC) shows off its original brick walls, iron work and large picture window feature. The updated landscaping and painted entryway add up to an inviting and cheerful welcome.
The picture windows allow patrons a spectacular view of the Mississippi River where lucky guests can sometimes spy the majestic wingspan of a bald eagle. Old Glory points the way. Update! See the new entryway below!
Displayed with pride, this historical photo illustrates the long history of RLBC’s structure as well as the many fallen buildings of Reads Landing’s Upper Main Street. The brewery is the last one still standing (farthest on the left).
The original pine wood floors have seen many a boot and pint of beer…value and character builders for sure.
Yes, the phone works, but only for incoming calls.
Part of Bob’s design plan was to locate vintage beer and old Reads Landing signage to honor microbrews of the past as well as the town’s rich history. Detailed touches such as this decor-mindful, star-mirrored light fixture keep well with the overall style scheme of the pub.
California ex-pat and cousin Tom kept a shiny bar top as he asked us to choose our poison. I then noticed this fantastic repurposed hymnal board turned daily beer sign. Cheers to this idea! (BTW, the Firebrick was fantastic!)
After a glass of suds, Bob took us down to the basement to give us the dime tour of his brewery. Here, we enter the first brew room as he explained his brewing process. In a nutshell, these tanks from left to right are (1) the liquor tank – a glorified hot water heater; (2) the mash tun-here, grain is added to the hot water making a mash which produces a sugar rich liquid called wort (wert); the wort is then added to the (3) brew kettle – the wort is boiled here, and hops, spices, etc. are added.
Next, all that spiced and hopped up wort is transferred to the fermenter tanks which then goes through a process that takes about a week to 10 days: wheat is added, the temperature is kept regulated and the beer is allowed to brighten and age.
Lastly, the beer is transferred to the serving tanks where it is carbonated under pressure with CO2, then pumped to the taps upstairs. This ain’t no home brew operation!
It was time for lunch, and boy, were we in for a treat! Minnesota native born and award winning head chef, Scott Tisland, treats each of his dishes with mouth-watering precision and unique culinary artistry. Matt and I both shared the beet salad, shrimp and grits (oh-ma-gah!), and fall-off-the-bones pan-fried wings with homemade BBQ and sweet honey mustard dip. We topped it all off with a sweet maple bacon cupcake with caramel filling. I’m tempted to purchase a flight back just thinking about it.
There’s plenty of reading material while you pull a few back. Bob hand-selected each vintage beer label and applied them to the bar. It’s quite the conversation starter.
With a full tummy and a setting sun, we ventured out to the patio just steps from the river’s edge. There, we admired more old signage and discovered the fabulous remains of a now exterior wall which was once the interior wall of an adjoining building. If you look closely, you’ll see scraps of the original turn of the century wall paper.
We’d like to thank cousin Bob for allowing us such VIP access and the chance to experience the fantastic and historical tour of Reads Landing Brewing Company! If you are in or near Wabash County, MN, stop on by the RLBC for a walk through architectural history and a culinary and handcrafted beer delight!
There has been some fabulous construction going on at the RLBC! Minnesota winters can be quite frigged and drafty, so, to create a warmer environment and added branding, Bob and his crew built this fantastic entryway which now also offers a more intimate and separate dining space from the bar.
Reads Landing Brewing Company is having their 1 Year Anniversary Celebration!
When: Saturday and Sunday, August 18th & 19th, 2012
Time: Sat. 11am-9pm, Sun. 12noon-8pm
A special hog roast will be prepared by local BBQ champions “The Heat Is On” team, along with beer specials all day and each day. Come early for the hog roast special: large BBQ sandwich, BBQ beans and cheesy potatoes, $13.95…cuz when it’s gone, it’s gone!
All photography, Skaie Knox, HomeJelly.com