As soon as we learned a brewery called Uncommon Loon was opening in Chisago City, we knew we were going to love it.
Katie’s grandparent’s last name was “Van Loon,” the loon is her favorite bird, and she can mimic a pretty mean loon call! Alright, so maybe our reasons for loving a brewery we’d not even visited yet were entirely personal and unrelated to beer. But hey — we’re entitled some bias, right?!
Uncommon Loon Brewing Co. opened its doors last December, and we’ve (im)patiently been waiting for warmer weather to make the trip up and check it out for ourselves.
With spring finally sprung, we finally made that trip this past Saturday. From Maple Grove, where we stopped to pick up Adam’s sister Annabeth, it was an easy and scenic 40-minute drive. We pulled into Chisago City just before 1:00pm to find Uncommon Loon just off Highway 8; a giant banner posted near the road made it impossible to miss.
As soon as we entered the taproom we felt at home. A warm and welcoming space, we could tell a great deal of intention and thought had gone into the taproom; it was perfectly balanced, we thought — the industrial look so common in metro-area breweries with the character and history of a community like Chisago City. We’d learn more about that intention and history later.
We met two of the three owners — Brad, who also serves as head brewer, and Corky — both of whom we immediately liked. They sort of reminded us of our dads — kind, soft-spoken, friendly and a little quirky. When Corky learned that Annabeth was in her early 20’s and single, he responded with “Well I have a son who’s smokin’!” She liked the sound of that, so we’re not throwing away the idea that he could be our father (-in-law) one day!
Brad and Corky, we learned, had been life-long friends before becoming business partners. It was actually at Brad’s retirement party following a career in engineering that the two began seriously talking beer. “Of course I have a retirement plan,” his shirt that day read, “I’ll be brewing beer.” Following a lot of planning, strategizing and permission from their wives, theoretical questions like “What if…?” turned into enthusiastic statements like “Let’s do this!”
One of the first big steps towards making Uncommon Loon Brewing Co. a reality was finding the the right building. It was Brad who found the current space — a former fire hall and community center. “I knew that was the building I wanted,” he told the Chisago County Press. “It had trucks parked in it and a bunch of gear draped all around, but I knew it would be perfect for what we wanted to do. It’s almost as if I could picture where I wanted everything to be in my first visit to the fire hall.”
The taproom still maintains some of its history today. Sliding glass doors ride original tracks from the building’s days as a firehouse.An adjacent event space — formerly the community center — still serves various local community groups and events. In fact, the day we visited, they were preparing to host their first wedding reception!
Brad also shared with us the story behind the name Uncommon Loon.
An obvious nod to Minnesota’s state bird the common loon, the owners didn’t, however, want their brewery or beer to be considered “common.” After all, the common beer for years in the Chisago City area has been corporate beers. Brad, Corky and their third partner John wanted to introduce their community to “uncommonly good” craft beer. With 23 years of homebrewing under his belt, we’d say that’s exactly what Chisago City has gotten!
With nine beers on tap — they’d just run out of a tenth the day before — there was something for each of us. Adam’s sister Annabeth prefers lighter beers and loved the cream ale and blonde; Katie enjoyed the Hefeweisen; and Adam favored the stout and double IPA — a style that’s surprisingly grown on him over the winter!
Brad’s years as a homebrewer have clearly paid off — the quality of beer for a brewery that’s been open just three months was easily comparable, we thought, to a brewery that’s been open three years! Following a tour of the brewing space, it was evident that investing in great equipment was another one of their intentional decisions. Everything was top of the line, pristine and capable of brewing lots of great craft beer efficiently!
“We wish we lived closer,” we told Brad and Corky as we prepared to leave, “this is the kind of place we would visit often.”
From great beer to great taproom to great people, Uncommon Loon is hardly common and exactly what a community like Chisago City should have.
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