The New “Thing to Do” – The Vibe of Breweries

by Orielle Heilicher, Tastemaker in Residence  

Beer, beer, and more beer; all I hear about are breweries. Everyone is going crazy for new beer and they even travel across state lines to get more beer (you already know I’m talking about Spotted Cow in Wisconsin). Now that I am 21 (happy birthday to me!), I can finally visit breweries and figure out what all the rage is about.

The first brewery I visited was Unmapped in Minnetonka, Minnesota. I saw kids running around, while parents were drinking and socializing and every now and then you would see some people my age, or people in their mid twenties. I thought, wow! I’m back in Europe, what happened? 

I knew beer was a big thing in the States before I left for Europe, but I didn’t understand the degree to which breweries were becoming a part of our culture. Ten years ago bringing your kids to a brewery might have been your greatest sin…

By now, I have been to four breweries at least and I’ve only been 21 for a week. You could say I like breweries just a little bit… 

Each brewery has its own layout, theme and vibe. My favorite brewery so far is (no surprise) Surly Brewing in Southeast Minneapolis. Surly has indoor seating with a Packman video game and the outside section has bonfires surrounded by couches, and lots of communal picnic tables. I was amazed by how packed it was out there. Of course, there were many choices of absolutely amazing unique and tasty beers at Surly, but that was really just another bonus. The space itself was the main event. 

And that was what I kept noticing. The space in a brewery was by far more important than the beer. The process of searching for a good brewery is now the same as looking for a good coffee shop. Of course the coffee is important and it should be very tasty, but the space is really what makes people want to come back. 

After Surly, I went on with my life not really thinking about the experience I had, and then I stumbled across a brewery when trying to go mini golfing at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul. My friends and I walked into a building we thought would be mini golf and turned out to be by BlackStack Brewing. This wasn’t what we were looking for, but then we found out we needed to wait two hours for mini golfing. We decided to wait in the brewery and enjoy some casual time together. 

BlackStack also had a great vibe. It was packed with people enjoying beer and the kicker – they had a full wall fitted with every board game you could imagine. Every single table of people had a game laid out. 

Thinking back on these experiences, I realized that breweries are a part of our social culture. Breweries are about the people you are with and the atmosphere the brewery brings rather than about the beer itself. Beer is the element that brings people together and creates community.

Wine tours are no longer “the thing to do”, well unless you’re in Italy. Wine tours, especially in America, are often far away, and provide socializing for those who love drinking wine and enjoying the views. At wineries there are no games, there are only views of the vineyards and people’s company. 

For years, beer has been a part of the lowbrow culture, while wine has been highbrow, a wine connoisseur culture that is less accessible to all. Beer is the new path for community building, harkening back to beer halls with long tables for all to share, joined around fun games and a warm atmosphere. 

Breweries are no longer a big city occurrence; they are everywhere in the suburbs and even in more rural areas. I even found a tiny brewery on the island of Mykonos in Greece (Mykonos Brewing Company) and my mom found a brewery in the middle of nowhere Eagle River, Wisconsin (Tribute Brewing Co.). 

International Beer Day is on August 2nd, so with all the breweries you can imagine available at your doorstep, go enjoy some beer, some games and the people you love. Cheers to breweries and all that they bring to our joyful drinking lifestyles!