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The Craft Experience

Savor the season with these local next-level cocktails, pints and pairings

Article by Emily McKeever

Photography by Natalie Finazzo Fox, Graham Miller

Originally published in Waconia City Lifestyle

Drinking culture has changed and evolved in the years upon years it’s existed. In the 1600s drinking establishments became places where important meetings were held, during the Industrial Revolution drinking was a cherished social activity, and Prohibition turned out Speakeasies that made drinking almost fashionable. These days when we invite friends over for the big game, we fill up the kegerator or set out a bloody mary bar. A girl’s night on the deck turns into an at-home wine tasting, and snagging a sitter finds you ponying up at your favorite bar. But never has drinking been so elevated with creative flair, such panache. Perfecting and muddling, pairing and tasting, garnishing and shaking, our favorite cocktails don’t just taste great, they’re pretty too. We use adjectives like smokey or buttery when describing our beer and we’re learning how to achieve the perfect harmony between our favorite drink and an amazing dish. The culture has evolved again, this time into an experience that involves taste and style, and we’re here for it. 

As temperatures fall and leaves turn, we button our flannels and stoke the bonfires. When the sun goes down at 4:30 on a Minnesota October eve, it won’t be hard to find the perfect brew to warm your insides and flush your cheeks at Waconia Brewing Company. Brewer, Dru DeLange shares that although their six tried and trues are always an option on the colorful chalkboard hanging in the taproom, they’re always looking to expand their craft offerings. “Late fall into early winter we’ll have a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and we’re bringing back the Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, Milk Stout, and Cookies and Cream.” Grab a gooey curbside pizza and spend time in the cozy taproom with one of these or opt for a growler of 90K IPA to serve with something spicy at home. Dru even goes so far as making beer cheese soup and chicken pot pie at home with their 255 Main Amber and notes that anything rich is a delicious pairing to it. The WBC is always looking to push boundaries, so it’s no surprise this holiday season they’re experimenting with a mulled wine. Set the scene with Christmas music and sip away with sweet cut-out cookies or a warm festive cheese dip.

Crawl out from under your blanket and go for warm and boozy at The Noble Lion. It took Bar Manager, Zac Fisher, eight years to perfect their Signature Old Fashioned making it a sip-worthy favorite. This aromatic cocktail pairs beautifully with hearty meats like the flavorful Steak Au Poivre, their seared-aged ribeye with green peppercorn sauce, served with to-die-for Belgian Frites. Be sure to ask for the curry ketchup for dipping! Or, if you’re one of the lucky few, feast your eyes and palate on the Mushroom Toast appetizer. From start to finish, Executive Chef Patrick Donelan is involved in this creation. Each year he goes from Chef to Forager and returns with 100 pounds of a variety of fresh mushrooms. This unforgettable delicacy is executed through a demi reduction of butter, wine, and a “secret” and sells out immediately. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Beyond the Great Pumpkin, apples and honey are also delicious fall classics. The fall-inspired Apple Brandy “Turtleneck” hot toddy from J. Carver Distillery will give you that comfort food feeling. Assemble a charcuterie board at home filled with cheese and chocolates, then shake and strain 1 ounce of J. Carver Apple Brandy, 1 ounce of Sevilla Liqueur, 5 ounces of hot apple cider and garnish with an orange peel and cranberries. Victoria’s Enki Brewing Taproom and Eatery even brought back the summer and fall favorite, Winnie the Brew Honey Blonde Ale which strikes a delectable balance with their tasty Fig and Prosciutto flatbread. Enki’s full-body Oktoberfest is also back, and nothing is more German than getting your hands on their Aki Bread Haus soft pretzel served with warm beer cheese.

You know the saying, eat, drink and be merry, so raise a next-level cocktail or autumnal pint and cheers to capturing all the flavors and feels that come with this genre of innovation and sensory appeal.

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