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Interlude: Breweries and other adventures in Fargo

It’s sure been nice to actually relax for a couple of days! And they were a good couple of days to relax too. Yesterday was a scorcher, humid and in the high 80s, and today actually broke 90. Tomorrow should be low 80s and the northwesterly wind should be back, so it looks like an auspicious day to resume my ride.

First order of business yesterday was getting my bike tuned up. Chains aren’t meant to last 3000 miles, so I definitely wanted a new chain at 1500. Also, with all the weight I’m carrying on the back of my bike, I’m sure the rear tire is wearing more heavily, so it seemed like a good time to get the tires rotated as well. Conveniently, there’s this giant sporting goods store called Scheel’s an easy walk from Josh and Jesse’s place, and it happens to have a large cycling department. Not only was I able to drop my bike off there yesterday, but I also bought a new pair of cycling shorts.

Some background on the cycling shorts situation: I’ve been doing the ride so far alternating between two pairs of shorts. One are normal cycling shorts, which means they have good padding but no pockets. When I wear them I have to keep my wallet and phone in my Camelbak which makes them inconvenient to get to. My other pair has pockets but has a bit less padding. That pair is also getting a bit worn because I’ve had it forever. So the pair I bought yesterday has both a massive amount of padding and several pockets. Hopefully that will give me both a more comfortable ride and the convenience of being able to easily get at my wallet and phone on days when I wear those shorts going forward.

As for the bike itself, they did such a good job with it that the bike looked almost new when I picked it up today. I’ve only ridden it a mile since then, so the real test will be tomorrow, but so far it’s riding great. The mechanic also remarked that it didn’t look like I’d put 1500+ miles on it, so I guess I’ve been maintaining it well.

Getting back to yesterday, Scheel’s was also so big that they have a restaurant that does really good sandwiches so we had lunch there too. After that, we dropped off Jesse for a board meeting for his choir and it was finally brewery time!

The first brewery we hit was Fargo Brewing. Somehow I’d never been there, even though they’re close to downtown and one of the oldest breweries in Fargo.

They’re best known for the Woodchipper IPA, given the obvious movie reference, but that’s just a drinkable version of a West Coast IPA, which has never really been my thing. Instead, if you want to drink one of their mainstays, go for the Stone’s Throw scotch ale, which the bartender said is their overall bestseller. Like the scotch ale at Phat Fish, it’s surprisingly light in color, but unlike that scotch ale it has a surprisingly well-balanced body despite the color.

For their specialty beers, I tried the Mango Iron Horse mango pale ale and the Benedict Cucumberbatch cucumber gose. I liked them both, but especially the latter, since it was really refreshing on a hot day. Also, remember how I said their lemonade radler was good but nothing noteworthy? The bartender recommended mixing it 50-50 with the regular Iron Horse pale ale. Josh did that and let me have a sip, and I definitely enjoyed it better that way. The pale ale gives it more character, whereas the radler alone is fine but kind of boring.

From there we continued on to Prairie Rose Meadery, where I unfortunately forgot to take a photo. They’re a small wife-and-husband operation, but they nevertheless produce over 25 varieties of mead. I discovered them last fall when I flew out to Fargo to go door-to-door for Heidi Heitkamp. The owner was very supportive of my efforts at the time when I told her what I was doing. Alas, it came to nothing. North Dakota has become just too deep of a red state to get even moderate Democrats elected anymore (though Cass County is still blue). Here’s a throwback photo to last fall though:

Back to the meadery itself, I was more than happy to revisit their maple mead, which is my personal favorite. (I still have a bottle of it sitting at home from my trip last fall.) My second-favorite is the pineapple chipotle mead, which has a fair amount of sweetness from the pineapple and only a slight kick from the chipotle. But really, it’s hard to go wrong with any of their meads, so if you go just be creative and try what looks interesting.

Finally, we checked out Drumconrath, which is the brewery I mentioned that had moved to downtown Fargo from Mapleton. Apparently their first day of business in Fargo was Wednesday and they still have some equipment in Mapleton, so that explains why they haven’t had the chance to take the old signs down yet.

As you might guess from the name, they do a lot of Irish styles, and indeed my favorite beer of theirs was the Ribbonman Irish red ale. Creativity points for their American pale wheat ale with mango and lime, which is so new that it’s not even on the menu yet. It’s a good concept, but what I noticed was that the mango was almost exclusively on the nose and the lime was almost exclusively on the palate. So you go to drink what smells like a strongly mango beer and instead get a shock when you taste a lot of lime. Hopefully in future batches they can balance the two better so that the beer the smell and taste of both fruits.

Now, while we were at Drumconrath, these guys who run a podcast called Brews, Booze & Reviews were doing a taping with the owner in honor of the brewery’s relocation to Fargo. During a break I was chatting with them, and when they found out what I was up to they decided to record a second podcast featuring me! I guess news really is slow enough in North Dakota that a guy biking across the state visiting breweries makes a good story. The podcast should drop tomorrow or Wednesday, and I’ll post a link when it does.

Today, both Josh and Jesse had work (hardly a surprise, since it’s Monday), so I chilled in the morning and then met up with a rabbi named Jamie and her husband Brad for lunch downtown. There’s a back story here: The weekend I was in Fargo last fall was the weekend of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Since there are so few Jews in North Dakota and I didn’t know any of them, I felt really isolated under the circumstances and posted something to that effect on Facebook. A friend of mine connected me to Jamie, who invited me to the vigil that was going to be held at the Fargo synagogue that Monday night. However, I was flying home Sunday night so I said we should connect the next time I was in Fargo. Fast forward to today and we met up at this really good breakfast-and-lunch place called BernBaum’s. It’s owned by a husband-and-wife pair, where the husband’s Jewish and the wife’s of Scandinavian descent, so the restaurant does a healthy spin on Scandinavian and Jewish food. At least everyone likes lox!

I learned from Jamie and Brad that it’s really difficult to be Jewish in Fargo, and it’s practically impossible anywhere else in the state. They’ve feared for their safety on multiple occasions. Short of a mass Jewish migration to North Dakota, I don’t even know what could be done to change the situation. There are simply too few Jews here, so the vast majority of North Dakotans grow up not knowing anyone Jewish and form their own stereotypes of us.

On a lighter note, once Josh and Jesse got home from work, we headed off to two breweries and a cidery near downtown. First up was Wild Terra Cider. They’re still getting going,so they only had two of their own ciders on tap, along with a number of “guest” ciders from around the country and the world.

I did like their Trail Magic though. With donated apples from orchards around North Dakota, wild yeast, and some dry hopping, it had a great complexity of flavors yet was still surprisingly light in both color and body. The bartender also informed me that they’re in the middle of a massive expansion and should soon have 10 of their own ciders on tap.

After Wild Terra we went to Drekker in their new “Brewhalla” location. Drekker used to be downtown but last fall they opened this much larger location about a mile west in an old factory building that dates to 1883.

When they cleared out of their old location in May, that made it available for Drumconrath to move in, which is how they were able to execute their move out of Mapleton.

Drekker is the brewery in Fargo most like a Northeast or West Coast brewery, in that they focus on IPAs and sours. My favorite beers from this trip were the Secret Handshake mango lassi milkshake IPA (I tend to be partial to milkshake IPAs) and, surprisingly, the Buffalo Rodeo rye pilsner. I usually don’t think much of pilsners, but the rye gave it a bit more flavor and character, while also pushing the ABV slightly over 5%. It worked very well. It was still clearly a pilsner, but it had a little extra something to it to make it interesting.

Finally, we headed over to Pixeled. They’re so new I didn’t even know they existed, so I’m glad Josh and Jesse took me there! Like GILD in Missoula, it’s a combination brewery and video arcade, though it has more video games and fewer beers than GILD. I only got to try a couple of their beers since it was getting late, but I did like their Jumpman brown ale. Very flavorful. Also a nice nod to Mario‘s original name.

So with the exception of the brewery I mentioned that’s only open Wed-Sat, I managed to hit every brewery within the Fargo city limits, as well as the meadery and cidery. Not bad for a couple of days here! Apologies to the two breweries in West Fargo, which I visited last October but didn’t get to this time around. I remember Prairie Brothers being quite good, but I don’t remember too many specifics. Something about a guava beer and a stout, maybe? And then of course there’s Junkyard across the border in Moorhead, MN, which anyone who’s up on the Fargo beer scene can tell you is the best brewery in the area. I don’t disagree with that assessment, but there were just too many new places to try and I’ve already visited Junkyard on a couple of previous visits. Maybe next time.

Tomorrow begins the second half of my ride, and I’m planning another century. Since I have no mileage count, here’s my count of breweries and other fermentories:

WA: 10 breweries + 2 wineries
MT: 10 breweries + 1 cidery
ND: 8 breweries + 1 cidery + 1 meadery

Join the Conversation


  1. I’m a Catholic priest in Stanley, ND, near Williston, and I’ve also done some cross-country bicycle tours over the years. You are correct that there are not many Jewish people in North Dakota, but I can’t imagine people around here having anything against Jewish people. As (around here, mostly) Christians, we see you as our forefathers in the faith. As far as I know, nothing but respect here. But I can’t vouch for all of the North Dakotans, I suppose.
    I’d have enjoyed a visit if you had passed through the northern route, through Williston and Minot. HWY 2, that northern route through Williston, does have some truck traffic, but it also has a decent shoulder. It’s not as crazy around here with oil truck traffic as it was a couple of years ago. Thanks for sharing your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yes, everyone I’ve talked to here has been really nice. Then again, I haven’t discussed my religion with too many people here, though the monks in Assumption Abbey were perfectly friendly when I said I was Jewish.

      Of course there are anti-Semites everywhere in this country and around the world. Thankfully in this country at least they’re a small minority. I think what it comes down to, and I’m just making up numbers here as an example, but suppose in states with a larger Jewish population, 0.5-1% of the non-Jewish population is strongly anti-Semitic to the point of making vocal threats against Jews. And suppose in states with a smaller Jewish population, 2-5% of the population is that vocally anti-Semitic. Either way the vast majority of people are nice, but if I have to worry about 1 person in 20 threatening me if they know my identity vs 1 person in 100, that’s a big difference.

      And yes, I’d like to see other parts of the state someday. Ten years ago US-2 was the recommended cycling route across the state, but when the fracking boom hit the Adventure Cycling Association went to great lengths to route cyclists away from Williston. I also know someone who did US-2 as part of a cross country ride in 2011, and he said he feared for his life around Williston because of the trucks. Maybe in another few years things will calm down enough that the association will once again route cyclists that way.


  2. It was great to see you in Fargo on this epic journey of yours. I am sure there will be more fermented wonders to sample the next time you visit. You’re welcome to pedal through any time!


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