“I wish this place was closer!”
“I do, too!” Katie agreed. “I’d come here a lot!”
We recently took a Saturday day-trip down to SW Minnesota to check out the craft beer scene in the area. Goat Ridge Brewing Co. in New London was the first of a three-stop brewery tour.
“I want our apartment to look like this!” Katie continued, gesturing to the dark walls made alive by healthy greenery, antique furniture, light fixtures and wall decor.
An extension of the original taproom space, the Shadowbox Lounge – with its antique, heirloom-inspired art and furniture — was a stark contrast to the more rustic original taproom space up front, giving the whole brewery a sort of slapped-together feel that we really loved. Then again, perhaps the different aesthetics were intentional — a tangible testament to the underlying artistic spirit of New London.
Ironically, we almost didn’t make it out to Goat Ridge Brewing Co.; the forecast for the day called for a blizzard that evening (which we did get caught in, unfortunately) — made more ironic considering we’d scheduled, rescheduled and eventually cancelled a visit about the same time the year before due to snow then as well. So far, however, we were thoroughly enjoying our day and our first stop at New London’s “Dam Taproom.”
Owner and head brewer Josh met us at the bar with the calm, cool demeanor of someone who had previously spent time on the slopes of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. It was there, we learned, in the taprooms at the foot of the hills, that Josh found his appreciation for craft beer. Originally a government employee working in water control, Josh quit his job to pursue his dream of starting a brewery in the farming community he grew up in.
Nearly four years later, Goat Ridge has not only encouraged other breweries to open in nearby rural towns such as Willmar and Montevideo but helped bring a life and energy back to the New London community. A surprisingly artistic hub, art galleries and pottery shops line the short Main Street stretch; a potter’s fire kiln even sits out behind the taproom, nearly begging to be used by anyone enjoying a drink on the deck. We weren’t sitting on the deck when we visited, of course; there was far too much snow for that. But, with the Mill Pond Dam (remember “Dam Taproom”?) within visible distance and the Middle Fork Crow River literally running through Goat Ridge’s backyard, the back patio space a popular hot spot for music, events and activities in the summer. Josh told us some people even fill their growler, hop in a kayak and drink as they float down the river (we’re not sure the legality of that, so we’re not endorsing, just reporting)!
If the overall taproom experience — including arts, music, and the farm-to-table restaurant Model Citizen inside — doesn’t proffer Goat Ridge Brewing Co. as a destination in its own right, Josh’s beer guarantees it! Fifteen beers were available the day we visited ranging from California Common to NE IPA, Amber Ale to Cider Ale, Winter Lager to Barley Wine and everything in-between!
A couple of our favorites included the German Lager “Firehall” and Imperial Stout “The Panic;” the lager was beautifully clean, crisp and perfectly malty, and the “Panic,” while on nitro — not something we usually enjoy — was pleasantly smooth and flavorful.
While we always appreciate the general convenience and accessibility of “big city” breweries, there’s something special about rural community breweries. Goat Ridge Brewing Co. is no exception. We left feeling like a part of Josh’s dream, a member of Goat Ridge’s community and an advocate for the “boonies breweries” of Minnesota’s craft beer scene. We’re definitely looking forward to our next visit to New London’s Dam Taproom (in warmer weather, of course) and would love to see you there!
Here’s our full review (categories are rated out of five ):
- Beer Selection (number and styles available): 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺
- Beer Taste (expected of style): 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺
- Location (find-ability/accessibility): 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺
- Atmosphere/Venue: 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺
- Service (of staff): 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺
Adam & Katie