On the hottest day of the summer yet, Utepils Brewing held a grand opening for the long-awaited creekfront beer garden. Gussied up like an adult birthday party, the patio’s decorative balloons periodically popped in the roasting sun, while the straw-hatted and mandal’d craft-beer crowd looked on.
Nestled in Minneapolis’ Bryn Mawr neighborhood, by the abandoned warehouse and ConAgra grain elevator at the Fruen Mill site, Utepils is finally capitalizing on its uniquely scenic positioning in the metro area. Fans of the taproom know the outdoor yard behind Utepils' beer hall has always been open to the public for our exploring pleasure, but they may have found it a bit unrefined for sipping brewmaster Eric Harper’s award-winning Ewald the Golden Bavarian-style Hefeweisen.
No longer is this the case (under normal circumstances).
Where once the land rolled underfoot, Utepils has landscaped and not-quite paved a portion of the brewery’s land abutting Bassett Creek. The patio’s perimeter remains wooded and grassy, while the center of the new beer garden has been tamped with gravel, and mixed with a little bit of cement for good measure. The dog-friendly area is now perfect for milling about, and easily traversable no matter how many beers you’ve downed, with less danger of rolled ankles and/or grass-stained pants.
The folks in charge have installed about a dozen large picnic tables around a central firepit, half of which have giant umbrellas under which folks jockeyed to hide from the stifling summer heat. Three more picnic tables rest atop the berm separating the paved area from Bassett Creek itself, a prime spot for turtle and duck watching, something none of the other breweries in the Cities can boast. These tables are equally fine for following the cue of every single individual occupying those tables on Saturday afternoon and squandering this opportunity by positioning one’s back toward nature’s majesty to face the blank facade of the brewery itself.
The only drawback to Utepils' new beer garden was the smell. We thought maybe the (imagined) dead fish in question would float downstream and leave us in peace, but alack! this wasn’t to be the case. A wee bit of eavesdropping found staff attributing the stench to either the freshly laid gravel itself, or the mulched landscaping. Both were composting in the heat. Nonetheless, we reclined in cheery, cerulean blue adirondack chairs, Radler in hand, sweating profusely and watching our afternoon laze on by, pretending the odor wasn’t there.
Despite the odor, Utepils’ new beer garden remains the perfect setting for a day spent on the perimeter of nature. That said, it may be best enjoyed on a day that’s not hotter than the surface of the sun, when shade is less covetable and the sun itself isn't causing all the surfaces upon which you stand to decompose.
What we really mean is: Nature always wins, and the folks at Utepils have created a pleasant, creekside atmosphere in which to be reminded of that fact.
225 Thomas Ave. N., Minneapolis