Trail Pairings: Take 16 Brewing Co

Sep 26, 2016Biking, State Parks, Trail Pairings

Imagine traveling back to a time when a trip in an automobile was an adventure involving leather gloves, a white scarf and aviator goggles. You might even be adventurous enough to risk a trip west on Historic US Highway 16 from Detroit to Yellowstone National Park, and by the time you putter into Luverne in Southwestern Minnesota, you might need to get your magneto serviced or new inner tubes for your tires and you’d pull into a service station on Main Street where you’re greeted by a uniformed attendant in a smart cap.

That was then.

Today, Interstate 90 has replaced old Highway 16 and traffic moves past Luverne a mile to the south, really close to where Minnesota meets South Dakota and Iowa. The old garage is still there, but it is now the home of Take 16 Brewing Company, which started brewing in 2014.

They are, as of yet, sans a tap room, so every Thursday they open their doors, roll out the taps from behind the stainless tanks and fill growlers and pint glasses. May through September it’s a block party with live music and food vendors.
When I rolled back into town from the trail in the afternoon, the Neo Johnsons were rocking the crowd and people were sitting on picnic tables, sipping beers and tapping their feet to the music. It was a party.

Stacey and Brad Hustoft from Luverne had come to check things out. They weren’t regular customers, but over a pint of Country Mile and Hayloft they both said they came because “We like to support the community”.

Owner Tim Gust working the taps. Head brewer Luke Rensink in the background

One of the owners, Tim Gust, was behind the bar pouring beers. He said it all started with the idea of a group of friends to start a brewery in Luverne, a town just shy of 5,000. In just two years they wrote a business plan, found 80 shareholders, bought a building and equipment, and started brewing in a 30bbl facility. He credited head brewer Luke Rensink with much of the success of Take 16.

Luke created a line of beers that includes Stormy Jack (winter seasonal named after a local Pony Express rider), Country Mile Kölsch, Hayloft Bavarian Hefe, Kick the Can IPA, Kick the Bucket Imperial IPA and Spin the Bottle American Pale Ale.

“I usually do mini-mashes in mason jars to try out new recipes”, he said. “Except for Spin the Bottle. I just did it full scale and it turned out”. Hence the name. Their fall seasonal Sundown Nut Brown Ale launches in September. The sun went down in Luverne eventually and the band kept playing classic rock tunes under red and blue lights in the parking lot. Diesel Technician Peter Hawkins was next in line for a beer. He was born in Australia and found a new home in Luverne. “It’s a local brewery and I like to support it. They make excellent beer”, he said.

“Once they finish the tap room, this place is gonna blow up.”

The Neo Johnsons rocking in the brewery parking lot

The Beers
These are my recommendations:

Hayloft Bavarian Hefe
With an IBU of 15 and 5.7 %ABV it was just the thirst quencher I needed after a day of exploring. It was the closest match to a German Weizen I have ever tasted in the US. Luke said the yeast was a strain they had cultivated from a Weihenstephaner by a nearby lab.

Kick the Bucket
As previously stated, I am a sucker for a heavy beer. I was told the name comes from what might happen if you have too many. I believe it at 9%ABV and 80 IBU. Delicious.


Main Street Luverne


Funky Diner in Luverne


Miles and miles of gravel riding around Luverne and nothing to block the view

The Route:

The Blue Mounds bike trail was very well marked and even a trailhead just across the street from Take 16, but before I could get going I had to fix a flat tire in the parking lot of the Grandstay Hotel. Riding up to the park was a great sight on a bright and sunny day.

The Blue Mounds Trail crosses open farm fields and I could see the state park’s 1200 foot long and 100 foot high rock formations appear on the horizon. Once I crossed the road before the park, I could see them up close and they are nothing short of stunning. At the park, the trail forked. To the left it stopped at the old interpretive center. It was once the house of writer Frederick Manfred whose 1954 novel Lord Grizzly tells the tale of Hugh Glass, a mountain man who was attacked by a bear and left for dead by his friends.

(A similar story as Michael Punke’s 2002 The Revenant which was made into a Hollywood movie in 2015)

The house is now closed, because it has structural problems. To the right, the trail took me past the dam that broke in the 1994 flooding. The breaking of the dam wiped out a lake that was used for recreation in the area, which has no natural lakes.The exposed and broken rocks on that section of the trail are the result of quarrying that stopped in the 1890s.The trail ends at the main parking lot near the ranger station and the walking trail up to the 500-acre bison enclosure, which is the main attraction at Blue Mounds State Park. Unfortunately, the bison were nowhere close and I could just barely make out their black shapes on the horizon. I biked the upper Cliffline Trail and took a trail to the Lower Cliffline Trail. That one was too steep and rocky, so I climb-walked the bike down.

What an amazing park and a nice little round trip of 12 miles.The city of Luverne is working on a connecting trail, the Luverne Loop, which will circle the town. It’s to be completed in 2017.

The trail head across from Take 16 Brewing Co.


The trail head across from Take 16 Brewing Co.


At Blue Mounds State Park


The bison were camera shy that day


Rent a tipi for the night


Rock formations in the afternoon sun



The view at the Lower Cliffline Trail


The view at the Lower Cliffline Trail


The view at the Lower Cliffline Trail




Trail inside the park




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About me

I’m Jan, the publisher of Minnesota Trails Magazine. I’m looking for that one trail, the next ride, a new discovery and other reasons never to sit still in Minnesota.


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