LAKE OF THE WOODS BREWING COMPANY
Beer without Borders: Lake of the Woods Brewing Company Warroad
By Kim Hruba
Craft Beer Enthusiasts and Road Warriors, here’s a new destination to put on your map: Minnesota’s northernmost brewery, Lake of the Woods Brewing Company in Warroad, Minnesota.
The original Lake of the Woods Brewing Company got its start in 1898 on the northern shores of Lake of the Woods in Kenora, Ontario. It stayed in operation until 1954 when it could no longer compete with the increasing presence of large national breweries in the Canadian market and closed. In 2013, Lake of the Woods Brewing Company re-opened in a refurbished 110-year-old fire hall in Kenora with the goal of getting their beer “into the hands of everyone on the Lake—both north and south of the 49th Parallel.”
Lake of the Woods serves as a watery border between Canada and the United States and is the sixth largest body of freshwater in the U.S. after the five Great Lakes. The area boasts excellent fishing, hunting, all-terrain recreation, camping, a long celebrated tradition of ice hockey, and, as of early June, a craft brewery on both sides of the border. “This is a destination location,” says Brittney Peterson, head of sales and events for the brewery in Warroad. “People don’t cancel their trips to Lake of the Woods. This area is associated with people’s best childhood memories and trophy-sized walleyes.”
Given the recreational popularity of the area, rather than reinvent the wheel, Eric Nerland and Peterson pitched a potential partnership with the owners of the Canadian brewery: the Kenora brewery would contribute industry know-how while the Minnesota-owned Warroad brewery would extend the Lake of the Woods Brewing brand to the south shore of the lake in the U.S. They agreed, with Eric and his wife Lindsay becoming co-owners of the Minnesota location and Peterson taking over the sales and events side of the business.
Just like in Kenora, the Warroad brewery is also located in a refurbished fire hall and situated right on the river that runs alongside the city’s downtown area. The building’s open floor plan, high ceilings, in-floor drains, and garage door made it an ideal location for a brewery, with a few renovations, including installing an improved cement slab floor. Other changes were largely aesthetic: adorning the walls with sheets of galvanized steel and shades of gray, black, and white, all of which make the red LOWBREWCO signage pop. New windows, created by local window manufacturer Marvin Windows and Doors, provide floor-to-ceiling views of the river.
The brewery operates on a custom-made 15-barrel brew system. Brewer Brian Famias works closely with the Kenora brewers, utilizing the recipes created for the Ontario location. The Canadian flagship beers include Sultana Gold (North American blonde ale), Firehouse (English Nut Brown), Forgotten Lake (blueberry ale), and Big Timber (American-style IPA). In Warroad, the beer offerings on tap include Sultana Gold, Forgotten Lake, Lakeside Kolsch, Honey Pale Ale and other seasonal offerings.
The taproom seats about 80 people and has a modern, industrial feel that’s tempered by an outdoorsy vibe courtesy of the wood-trim exterior, picnic tables, and a deck outfitted with red Adirondack chairs. There are even a few spaces to dock your boat or park your ATV or snowmobile right next to the brewery.
The Nerlands and their team hit the ground running opening on June 1, 2019, and, so far, the microbrewery has been well-received by locals and tourists alike. “Weekends are busy all day long,” Peterson says.
Lake of the Woods Brewing Company offers events such as Tuesday Trivia Takeover, growler painting, live music, and board games. A party room called the Livewell is available to rent for private events and catering is available through local vendors. The brewery hosts food trucks onsite over the weekends and encourages patrons to order food from area restaurants.
Tours are offered by appointment on Friday (4–7pm) and Saturday (12–7pm) and cost $10 per person, which includes a pint.
This article first appeared in The Growler Magazine (growlermag.com).