Brewing It Downtown

Brewing it Downtown

Rating Microbreweries’ Drinks in Downtown Fargo-Moorhead

BY JOHN MILLER
MARTIN SCHLEGEL

Wake up and smell the hops. Microbreweries are sprouting up all over the country.

Fargo-Moorhead is not immune to this wave of new age beer.

For the last four years, three major players in the microbrewery business have grabbed Fargo-Moorhead by the malts; Fargo Brewing Company, Drekker Brewing Company, and Junkyard Brewing Company.

We set out to taste test a beer in four different categories at each establishment. Dark beers and red ales were tasted by Martin, and light beers and other miscellaneous beers were tasted by John.

Each drink was rated based on the look, initial taste, and aftertaste. We condensed our analysis and rated each drink. At the end, we summarize our ratings and award a brewery the best overall place to drink beer.

Martin Tasting Dark Beer

Porters or stouts are some of my favorite beers to drink, right behind red ales. However, it’s hard to find a good-tasting dark beer that is offered universally. It’s hard to find a porter or stout that is both smooth in initial taste and soothing in aftertaste.

The Milk Maiden offered both of those qualities.

The little kid in me, who loves chocolate milk, couldn’t resist ordering a chocolate milk stout. It was a great decision because the Milk Maiden was by far the best of the dark beers.

Bleed Green was a close second. It was both smooth and soothing yet didn’t have the cocoa or coffee flavor of the Milk Maiden.

The Sodbuster didn’t impress me as much as the first two. It had the most alcoholic of the bunch, but it also had the most alcohol percentage.

I prefer the less alcoholic-tasting stouts and thus enjoyed the Milk Maiden and Bleed Green much more than the Sodbuster.

  1. Milk Maiden – Drekker Brewing Company
  2. Bleed Green – Junkyard Brewing Company
  3. Sodbuster – Fargo Brewing Company

Martin Tasting Red Ales

My go-to beer has always been Sam Adams Boston Lager, which is considered a red lager.

red lagers are often is included with American Ambers and Red Ales. Each microbrewery had its own style of red ales from Scottish and Irish red ales to an amber lager.

The Scottish ale Stone’s Throw made by Fargo Brewing Co. was far and away the best in this category. Not only did it taste great but it had a low alcohol percentage.

I tend to drink more low-alcohol beers because the drink is usually flavor-based, which allows for more consumption and casual sipping.

It's plenty nice enough outside to sit at the picnic table and drink some beer at Junkyard.

A post shared by Martin Schlegel (@peapod19) on

The Vienna Lager, new to Junkyard this month, was heavier tasting than Stone’s Throw but delivered in taste. It’s toffee and caramel malt flavors not only gave the beer a rustic red color but made for sipping under the sun an enjoyable experience.

Stone’s Throw, still the best of the trio, featured more kick in flavor than the Vienna Lager, however.

I don’t see myself drinking red ales other than Sam Adams Boston Lager in the future, yet I walked away extremely satisfied with the taste of Stone’s Throw.

  1. Stone’s Throw – Fargo Brewing Company
  2. Vienna Lager – Junkyard Brewing Company
  3. Broken Rudder – Drekker Brewing Company

John Tasting Pale Ales

India pale ales (IPAs) have a dominant hoppy flavor. American pale ales (APAs) are similar to IPAs in taste, but with a less assertive presence of hops.

Prior to exploring the Downtown Fargo breweries, I hadn’t dabbled far into the world of pale ales.

The flight of beers at Fargo Brewing Company. (Photo by John Miller)

I generally roll with a typical light lager such as Busch Light or Bud Light. After experiencing more pale ales, I can say I prefer the APA to IPA. With my APA preference, I had to give Junkyard’s APA, Christian Bale Ale the top spot.

The Christian Bale Ale had a nice overall flavor, without an overpowering amount of hoppy taste. Wheez the Juice and Wood Chipper were two decent IPAs, but I preferred the less-hoppy APA.

  1. Christian Bale Ale – Junkyard Brewing Company
  2. Wheez the Juice – Drekker Brewing Company
  3. Wood Chipper – Fargo Brewing Company

John Tasting Miscellaneous Beers

These beers are all similar in that they are light in pour, they are not dark or amber.

Junkyard’s Piña Colada and Drekker’s Drive By Glitter Bomb are both sour beers, while Fargo’s is a Northwest-style pale ale.

They both had a sour, tangy, fruity finish to them. What gave Junkyard’s experimental brew the edge was its balance of flavor. Obvious notes of pineapple and coconut came through, but it wasn’t overly sweet.

Drekker’s Drive By is similar to the Piña Colada. This sour saison was vibrant with hints of banana and citrus and a nice tartness. Junkyard’s was slightly sweeter and had a better overall flavor.

Fargo Brewing Co.s Iron Horse was not a bad beer, it was just outdone by the other two. The flavor was similar to the Christian Bale Ale, but with a more hoppy finish.

  1. Piña Colada – Junkyard Brewing Company
  2. Drive By Glitter Bomb – Drekker Brewing Company
  3. Iron Horse – Fargo Brewing Company

Summary of our Taste-Test

Fargo Brewing Company produced the best red ale of the day with the Stone’s Throw, giving it one first-place finish. None of Fargo Brewing’s beers came in second place, while three of them came in third place: Iron Horse, Wood Chipper, and Sodbuster. Overall, Fargo Brewing Company finishes third.

Drekker received the top spot in the dark beer category with its smooth chocolate milk stout: Milk Maiden. Two Drekker brews finished second place in their respective categories. Drive By Glitter bomb finished second in the miscellaneous category, and Wheez the Juice was the second-best IPA.

With two first place finishes and two second place finishes, Junkyard Brewing Company snags the number one spot on the podium of “Brewing it Downtown.” Its Vienna Lager and Bleed Green were second in their respective categories. Junkyard’s mildly-hoppy APA, Christian Bale Ale was the best pale ale, while the experimental sour Piña Colada reigned supreme amongst the miscellaneous brews. Moorhead, stand up.

(John Miller is a communication studies major and sports communications minor at MSUM. He currently works as the sports editor at MSUM’s student newspaper, the Advocate, and as a sports clerk at the Fargo Forum. He aspires to write professionally about the NBA. Contact him at millerjoh@mnstate.edu.)

(Martin Schlegel is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism at MSUM where he was sports editor of The Advocate; he writes for “Puckett’s Pond,” is a sports clerk at The Forum, and hopes to be a beat writer for an MLB team. Contact him at schlegelma@mnstate.edu.)

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