I had never attended a baby shower before. Of course, I’ve heard about them. You play silly games, talk with people you’ll never meet again, and graze on miscellaneous snacks. All of my expectations were met but what the other guests may have not expected was my competitiveness. Nobody sent me the memo that the games were meant to be fun, not to be won. After a fierce round of baby jeopardy with the oddest rules I’ve ever encountered, I needed a drink. My wife wasn’t present to temper my competitive streak, she was dealing with a screaming baby. Needless to say, she needed a drink too. So we popped the kid in the car and made for Waconia Brewing Company.
The Waconia Brewing taproom is located in a strip mall off Main Street Waconia, Minnesota. The lake isn’t visible, but you can sense that it’s there. We parked on the street and made our way past the food truck and across the parking lot to the brewery. Our friend “Little” Lisa was with us, not a huge fan of craft beer but always looking to join in on the fun. The brewery was surprisingly busy and there was exactly one high top available for us. Historically I’ve enjoyed these tables but having a baby in a carseat makes them a lot more precarious. Once we determined that the baby was sufficiently secured I went up to order for the table.
I brought a pair of pints over for the girls and went back to retrieve my heavy wooden flight board. There were a lot of families in the room, most of which seemed like locals. The patrons skewed older but there was one group of younger kids that were all dressed up. It was at this point that my wife told me it was Halloween that weekend. For someone that’s extremely detail oriented I’m absolutely atrocious at knowing when holidays are. That means I get a consistent stream of surprises throughout the year! “Little” described them as “Flannel and Flappers” which was an extremely accurate description.
If you’re at home in a local bar then you’ll be at home in Waconia’s taproom. There is a long L-shaped bar that runs the length of the room. Almost all of the seating is high tops with sturdy stools built of metal and wood. There is a drop ceiling with tin panels above the bar. The floor is dark concrete with a giant WBC logo on it and a handful of leather chairs are arranged around a fireplace in the corner. A mural featuring the brewing process is prominently displayed on one of the walls. It’s all standard stuff, nothing flashy, but a couple of small details that make it their own.
There were ten beers on tap and my flight had six of them. It was served on a darkly stained wooden flight board with a metal outline of Minnesota and a star punched out where the brewery resides. I drank them in the following order: Carver County Kolsch, 255 Amber Ale, WacTown Wheat, Laketown Brown, 90K IPA, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. The Kolsch was a great start, snappy, bright, and clean. It’s no wonder that it was a 2016 Gold Medal winner! The 255 was more robust than I expected with heavy roasted malt and a touch of smoke. The Laketown Brown was Samantha’s favorite. Lovely notes of espresso and dark chocolate wrapped in a creamy package. My last was their Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. Regular readers know that peanut butter beers are a bit of my weakness so it’s not a surprise that it was my favorite. Its flavor leaned more towards Reese’s Pieces than other similar beers. Since that’s one of my favorites candies it’s far from a complaint!
Waconia is serving some excellent craft beer in a package slightly trendier than what their locals may be used to. Small towns can be hard to convert, but with a mix of easy drinkers and a tap list rounded out by approachable beers in a variety of styles they have the perfect recipe for success. The free popcorn doesn’t hurt either!