Archived Story

Brewing up good memories [UPDATED]

Published 8:48am Friday, September 24, 2010 Updated 10:20am Friday, September 24, 2010

Ah, beer. The cause of and the solution to all of life’s problems.

- Homer Simpson

Homer. For 20 years he’s been sharing his insightful wisdom.

Is beer the cause of and the solution to all of life’s problems?

I don’t know. Homer could be onto something here.

But what I do know is that I have been a big fan of beer since I was 12 or so.

Whoa! Let’s rewind a bit here.

I wasn’t drinking beer at age 12, but I was on the path to becoming one heck of a great beer and brewery historian by the time I was 12.

You see, I was a beer can collector. As a young kid I was fascinated by all the different kinds of beer I would see on our family travels.

By the time I was 18 I had almost 4,000 beer cans in my collection, and I could tell you some kind of story behind each and every one of them. It might have been brand history, or the brewery’s origin. Maybe a story about the art on the beer can, or where I obtained the can for my collection.

I was also lucky enough to have a Dad who supported my hobby and took me on brewery tours. I can proudly say that I was in the old Hamm’s Brewery in St. Paul, the Grain Belt Breweryin Minneapolis and Walters Brewery in Eau Claire, Wis. before they closed and saw many of their buildings demolished.

I still try to view former breweries while on vacations, like the Pearl Brewing Co. and Lone Star Brewing Co. — both in San Antonio. If you’ve ever seen a big old brewery you’ll understand my fascination with those buildings. In many cases they are examples of real industrial, sometimes gothic architecture.

For 10 years I lived in a brewery town in Chippewa Falls, Wisc. The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company was one of my beats and am proud to count Jake Leinenkugel and his brothers Dick and John among my friends. I hung out at the brewery as often as I could. And even though I couldn’t say no to those two free samples of beer, I went there more to be around the history of the building and learn.

I would be the best tour guide at Leinies. Honest!

Today beer remains a hobby. Yes, a hobby. I continue to enjoy brewery history and have become fascinated with the newer craft breweries and brew pubs.

I have a great collection of growlers from all the breweries and brewpubs I have visited. I have one rule with my collection — I have to have personally visited the brewery in order to display its growler.

Somewhere along the line I also became a homebrewer and making beer in our kitchen has oftentimes been a family project.

My son Christopher bought the ingredients for one of my favorite creations — a blueberry wheat. My fondness for Jimmy Buffett shows in my last batch. It’s called “Parrothead Red.” My dark German beer won first place at a brewery homebrew festival about a decade ago.

On Oct. 15 I will get to share my beer at The Otter Tail Historical Museum’s annual brewers festival.

I’ve never been able to go before because it used to fall on the weekend of my anniversary. When given the choice of beer or my wife, Kathy wins, thank goodness!

Advance tickets can be purchased at the Historical Museum in Fergus Falls and Make Me Wine in Perham for $12. Tickets at the door are $15. No one under 21 will be admitted. For more information, call 218-736-6038.

Jeff Hage is the managing editor of The Daily Journal. Reach him by email at

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