Straight from the Source explores the past and present of beautiful Read’s Landing.
By Doug Hoverson
Photos courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society and Doug Hoverson
While still scenic, Reads Landing isn’t what it used to be. Once a thriving river town, only one of the buildings pictured in an 1873 photo of Upper Main Street still exists. Today that historic dry goods store houses Reads Landing Brewing Company.
A few years ago Bob Nihart, proprietor and brewer, decided he wanted a career change. The old store, in his family since the 1930s and serving as a family cabin, seemed like a good location for a brewpub. The building, which has an unobstructed view of the Mississippi River, was a bar for about fifteen years until the mid-1950s, and then became the original site of the Anchor Inn restaurant. Remodeling the structure caused numerous headaches. It was necessary to dig out the old cellar to make it deep enough for the brewing equipment, but the day before the concrete arrived, a flood washed out much of their work. Meanwhile, Nihart went to the Siebel Institute in Chicago to take the brewpub management class, purchased and installed a three-barrel brewing system, and started designing recipes. The restaurant opened in 2011, and brewing began during the summer of 2012.
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On a recent visit, there were four house beers available. All were well-made session beers: Cremona Cream Ale, Wagmu Pumpkin Ale, American House Pale Ale, and Grumpy Old Dunkel(weizen). Some of the names have local connections. American House was once an important hotel in town, and the comedy Grumpy Old Men was set nearby on Lake Pepin. Session beers dominate the lineup because the system is not big enough to contain the grain necessary to make a higher gravity beer. Nihart hopes to come up with a solution and offer a bigger beer soon. He enjoys showcasing hops. Both the cream ale and pumpkin ale had more hop flavor than is standard for the styles, but the result was enjoyable. Some of the beers rotate according to season, and Nihart plans to use the natural winter temperature of the cellar to lager a bock for the spring.
The kitchen at Reads Landing Brewing Co. is very small, so chef Casey Mehrkens has created a smaller menu that features locally-sourced items. There are several nice touches, including using spent brewing grains in the bratwurst buns. About 25% of the customers are from the local area. The rest come from around the region to watch the eagles, watch the river flow by, and watch a beer being poured for them Straight From the Source.
American House Pale Ale
English Malts, Target and Willamette hops, finished with Cascade
ABV: 5.2%, IBU: 45
If you were able to try Boston Beer Company’s recreation of Jack McAuliffe’s New Albion Ale, you may find American House Pale Ale similar. The rounded malt profile has a bit of caramel and bread and provides a base to let the hops shine. The aroma showcases the typical Pacific Northwest characteristics of citrus and resin, though restrained in comparison to some of the hop bombs. Medium hop bitterness, with some tangerine in the flavor.