Trail Pairings: Bank Brewing in Hendricks, MN
This is the first entry in my new series called Trail Pairings, where I visit a place, explore their roads and trails and visit the local taproom so I can recommend a beer to go with it. Someone’s gotta do it.
The Place: Bank Brewing in Hendricks, MN
The stone steps leading into Bank Brewing Company’s taproom were worn down from decades of foot traffic. That’s the first thing I noticed after I locked my bike to a nearby signpost. I did so out of habit and not because I felt it was necessary. The streets of Hendricks were empty on that Saturday night, except for a few lazy golf carts puttering through the alleys. It was near sunset and there was a glow coming from inside the taproom.
“It’s slow today because all the regular guys are on a branding run”, said Tammy Dumke, taproom manager and public face of Bank Brewing. Here in rural Hendricks, just a couple of miles east of South Dakota, ranchers get together regularly to rope and brand new calves and that has priority even over visiting the taproom.
The small space was inviting and I settled into a corner of the counter to take in a flight. The old Hendricks Bank building housed a café for many years after the bank closed, but had been sitting empty in recent times.
“This place was in such bad shape, the ceiling was about to cave in”, said Tammy. The plaster was removed to expose the brick underneath and the room still had the large arched windows, tile mosaic floors, coffered ceiling and even a vault door. An old sign on the wall payed homage to Irene’s Café, a local favorite for many years.
A few guests trickled in. Taylor Stoddard and Whitney Fuller from Sioux Falls, SD are regulars. “We come here for Tammy and the beer is excellent”, Taylor said “We love craft beer and this place has a better hometown feel than others and it’s the only place where they’ll go to the brewery and get more beer if they run out”, he said. Tammy confirmed she has had to go around the block to the brewery in the old Farmers Creamery building and get a full keg on a busy Saturday night.
I chatted with Keith, Tammy’s husband, who stopped in for a pint after chores. His great-grandparents immigrated from Germany and settled near Hendricks. Arriving late in the year in an area sparse with trees, they spent their first Minnesota winter in a one-room sod house. “I’m surprised they made it”, he said.
They did make it and found a hometown and community that sticks together to this day. “We’re a long way from anywhere. People still buy food at the local grocery store, eat at the café and shop the stores”, Keith said. “We like it here”
Owner Jason Markkula agreed. Although he contributed a lot of the brewery’s success to visitors to Lake Hendricks since he opened in 2014, he said locals embraced the idea of a microbrewery and taproom in this community of 800. “I can think of several people that aren’t necessarily beer drinkers, but they come in for a pint on a regular basis, just to support the brewery”, he said. It’s this local connection that keeps the doors open when the visitors go back home.
“Hendricks is an anomaly”, he said. “In a time where small towns are dying, this town continues to thrive. The whole community has wrapped their arms around the brewery.”
These are my recommendations:
1. Sour Bomb This one hit the spot after a long day. Tart, punchy, effervescent and refreshing, it is a lot like Berliner Weisse. You can add Monster Energy Drink and make it a “Dirty Smurf,” but that’s between you and the beer gods.
2. Foreclosure This wine barrel-aged barley wine is heavy, sweet and hoppy. It clocks in at 12% ABV and 100 IBUs, and I’m a sucker for sweet and heavy. It would really shine in the winter, like at the annual Hendricks Fishing Derby.
3. Hop Bandit Dry-hopping makes this one an all-day beer. The hop flavor is subtle and fresh.
I stayed the night at Lake Hendricks Campground in Lake Park. Lake Hendricks is the source of the Laq qui Parle River that flowed just a few feet away from my tent. The campground was clean and had a wonderful setting on the river. For $12 a night you get clean bathrooms and showers, and a campsite with a fire ring, picnic table, water and electricity. The campground was just over a half of a mile away and a footpath to town left directly from my campsite. They knew I was coming, I think.
Hendricks doesn’t have a bike trail, but the road riding is just fantastic. In the hour or two that I was riding, I may have seen half a dozen cars. The terrain is flat with some undulating hills and you can see for miles and miles.
At one point near the Minnesota/South Dakota border I turned off the tar onto a gravel road past Lake Hendricks State Recreation area. The gravel ride was only 2 miles long, but left me wanting more. It was a great little ride with a steep descent, no problem for the Pugsley. It was my first visit to southwestern Minnesota. The scenery was just breathtaking, because you can see so far, yet see so little at the same time. If you have agoraphobia, this is not your place.
I’m working on getting Map My Ride or a similar GPS tracking system. If you visit, follow this route:
Leave Lake Park going east on 17 (turns into W Garfield St)
R on S Division St (turns into 271/1)
R on 14 (turns into 200th st, then 487th Ave)
R on 201st St (gravel)
R on 485th Ave/29 (back to tar)
R on 199th St /44 (44 curves to the left)
R on 198th St
R 488th Ave (turns into 17)
Arrive back at Lake Park
Total miles: about 15
Saint Joseph is the eastern terminus of the Lake Wobegon Trail, so you have lots of options for a bike ride. It continues west for 42 miles from Saint Joseph through Avon, Albany, Freeport, Melrose, Sauk Centre and West Union through Minnesota’s dairy country. Every seven to nine miles another church steeple and water tower tell you the next town is not far away. If you’re really ambitious, you can ride another 55 miles to Fergus Falls, because the Lake Wobegon Trail connects to the Central Lakes Trail at the county line between Sauk Centre and Osakis. (Two brewpubs on the Central Lakes Trail, but that’s another blog post)
In Albany, a spur to the north goes through Holdingford and connects to the paved Soo Line Trail to Bowlus and beyond.
I started my trip in Bowlus at the trailhead that was built to resemble the old train station and headed for Holdingford. As soon as I left town, a tunnel of trees, which made for a nice, shady ride, swallowed me up. The trail crossed Two Rivers River several times on old railroad trestle bridges and popped out into the open here and there. There’s sparse development on this section of the route, just some farms and cows, very pastoral.
Holdingford’s highlight is the covered bridge, a relatively new addition to the town, which was once a hotbed for bootlegging. I zipped through Albany after turning east and continued on another very nice tree-covered stretch to Avon, where I got a bird’s eye view of the trailhead from the top of the observation tower. It was built to represent a water-filling station. These were once essential to train travel because steam trains needed to fill up their tanks on a regular basis.
The last nine miles to Saint Joseph started out wooded, but soon the tree cover went away and I rode through farm fields and past swampy areas in the open. Just before I got to Saint Joseph I passed by the old Collegeville station, now a private residence. A marker tells the history of the area and if you look carefully, there are remnants of the old tracks in the grass.
Just before the Saint Joseph trailhead, at County Road 3, I took a connecting spur south to W Minnesota Street and rode the shoulder to Bad Habit Brewing for another half mile. After a total of 35 miles I felt I deserved a beer.
Sounds of Clapton, Springsteen and Billy Joel greeted me through the open garage doors as I rode up. It was a warm afternoon and people were lounging on the patio, sipping on beers. Inside, light and dark striped wood tops, banded in stainless steel, made the place look cozy and modern at the same time. A window wall let in the warm afternoon sun and illuminated the beer menu behind the bar like a message: “You have arrived.”
Bad Habit Brewing Company opened in October of 2015 and their flagship beers include Hangup Blonde Ale, Habitual IPA, Dark Addiction Chocolate Milk Stout and Bad Habit Pub Ale, supported by seasonal offerings like Polar Espresso, an espresso-infused brown ale; Eighteen 55 Brunch Stout with espresso, chocolate and vanilla; Aggressive IPA with an eyeball-curdling 92 IBU and an Irish Red Ale.
“We can’t always brew the beers that just we like to drink”, said Aaron Rieland, one of the founders and owners of Bad Habit Brewing when asked how they come up with ideas for new beers. “We see what’s popular in the market, what’s trending, what other breweries are doing, but we also have to make beers that sell”.
That still leaves room for brewers Eric Geier and Erik Salmi to crank out regular experimental batches like Blueberry Wheat, Jalapeno Blonde or a Scottish Wee Heavy, aged in whiskey barrels from Panther Distillery in Osakis (hint: You can take the trail there, it’s only 47 miles).
The idea that craft beer makes people include breweries in their travel plans is not a new one and there was evidence for it that night.
Ed Clark and Trang Nguyen from St. Paul are self-confessed hopheads and visit about 50 breweries a year. “We’re on a mission to collect a growler from each brewery in Minnesota and so far we’re on growler number 66”, Clark said. Their favorite: Habitual IPA.
Jen Kramer from St. Joseph had brought her friend Mark from Rush City to Bad Habit. Both like to go to craft beer festivals and visit tap rooms regularly.
“We like to come here because we like the atmosphere and the beer is really good”, Mark said.
Kaye Demel and Darrin Jorschumb from nearby Avon are happy Bad Habit is close by. “We’re both into craft beers a lot and this is a great place to be if you don’t like to go to bars”, Kaye said. “If we go someplace new, we like to check out the local brewery”. Her favorite was the Blonde Ale. “It has no aftertaste, but still a lot of flavor.”
Aaron Rieland described the reception the brewery received in Saint Joseph as “absolutely fantastic”.
“This community has been so good to us and we have really liked getting to know our neighbors and meet lots of new friends”, he said.
Bad Habit’s future plans include offering crowlers, expanding their summer hours and increasing the production of their 5bbl system from 350 to 400 bbl.
After a 35-mile ride I really enjoyed the Repetition Pale Ale, because it was very quaffable (a new word I learned) with its 5.5 ABV and 33 IBU.
I also quaffed a Rye Saison with slightly more heft in both departments, meaning 6ABV and 41IBU. There’s just something about a saison that says ‘Drink me after a long ride’.