SUI GENERIS punk rock bike shop home-brew art/craft love

Summit brewery tour

The Summit brewery is a St. Paul landmark, and I have been planning to visit them for a long time. This week I finally made the trip. At 1:00 on a Thursday, I was not expecting many people to show up for the scheduled tour. I walked in right as it was getting started. To my surprise, there were already over twenty people there when I arrived, and more people joined us afterward. Free beer is a powerful motivator.

Our guide asked if any of us were homebrewers. I think I was the only one to raise my hand. The older gentleman behind me was excited by this and told me that his son, who lives in Alaska, has been homebrewing beer for many years. I had to admit that I've only made cider so far, but I got to tell him about my "Alaskan Amber" pint glass--a souvenir gift from my favorite Alaskan.

The tour started with a discussion of the four basic ingredients of beer (malt, hops, water, and yeast). We got to smell and taste some different malt varieties that are used by Summit. I only tried a couple, but my favorite was the caramel malt. After the history lesson and beer-making overview, we walked through the facility. There sure is a lot of equipment involved. Most of it is modern stainless steel. Above, you can see their two-storey fermentation vats and some other fancy brewing devices. None of that newfangled machinery looked as pretty as their pair of imported copper kettles (top).

I think I was the only one in our tour who noticed this, or more likely, I was the only one nerdy enough to care. Piled against a wall in the bottling room was a stack of empty boxes. That's nothing special, but as soon as I noticed the name on the top, I snapped a photo. Who is Mark Stutrud? Why, none other than the owner of the company, the man who started Summit over 20 years ago. I figure it's a pretty successful company, so he probably needs these boxes to cart home his giant piles of money.

I've toured a few breweries (Leinenkugel's) and several wineries, but the bottling lines have always been stopped while I was there. Summit cranks out a lot of bottles, so it must be an impressive sight when the whole thing is going at full speed. I tried searching YouTube for a video, but no dice. Maybe I'll get to see it when I visit the Schell's brewery in New Ulm!

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