[Brew Ales & Eats, Perham, Minn]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Kristen Perala Creative
With plans to span nearly every mile of local lakes country, first, we headed east to Brew Ales & Eats in the beautiful vacation town of Perham, Minn. In the midst of charming boutiques, coffee shops, cafés, and florists, Brew's rustic-modern dining experience is a welcome retreat with a must-try menu. In addition to their current lunch and dinner menu, they're now serving up a brand new brunch menu, complete with morning-inspired cocktail flights. When we heard the Mini Brunch Flight included a Pineapplemosa, Pizza Mary, Tropical Screw-up, and a Toasty Roaster - we put down our coffee and grabbed a prime spot on the patio.
Crafting Casual Cuisine
In 2011, Alex and Britt Belquist were happy to start small, leasing a tiny bar space in the back of the old Station House in Perham, Minn. Nine years later, their humble beginnings paved the way for tried and true restaurateurs, reinventing casual cuisine, one restaurant at a time. Beyond Brew Ales & Eats, the Belquists are partners with Shelby and Chad Terstriep in Brew Bird (Fargo) and City Brew Hall (Wahpeton), with an additional partner, Eric Myhre in the up and coming 701 in Fargo. They are also partners in Up North Pizza Pub (East Grand Forks) with Jesse Johnson and Kyle Cash.
The Belquists worked with Fargo architect, Chris Hawley, on the Brew's impressive building design, opening their doors to patrons in 2013. Brew Ales & Eats was actually the first restaurant that Hawley ever designed. The result is an eclectic aesthetic of modern-rustic elements flowing from the main level bar, to the upper loft and outdoor patio. To add the finishing touches, Mary Jordheim created custom art pieces using vintage beer cans.
"At the time, craft beer wasn't really a thing around here. Alex and I had been living in Minneapolis and I worked at a couple of bars where craft beer was huge, with over a hundred beers on tap. We loved it and knew we needed to bring it here and expose people to this type of experience. With the name, Brew, we had intentions to possibly brew our own beer one day, but then the craft beer world took off and we decided to focus on food and bringing in a variety of locally crafted beer.
With Brew's creative head chef, John Hart, and sous chefs, Sue Ayers and Vincent Shimanek, guests can expect a variety of casual and upscale cuisine that will please every palette. “We really set out to bring unique food that you wouldn't normally see in this area," said Belquist. "We specialize in burgers and bar food, but everything we serve has a unique flair. We use really fresh, made-from-scratch ingredients and we're adding more entrees and appetizers each year, like our Thai Chicken Lettuce Wrap."
"The Brew Burger is always a favorite, but our goat cheese quesadillas are also really popular. They have grilled chicken, bacon, goat cheese, and candied walnuts - then they're topped with a balsamic reduction and served with our homemade citrus chimichurri. It's definitely different, but once people try it, they usually come back for it," said Belquist.
Another of Brew's summer favorites is their unique spin on bbq nachos with house-fried tortilla chips, smoked pulled pork, and homemade cilantro crema. If you love homemade dipping sauces, they've got 11 - everything from housemade citrus chimichurri and french onion, to beer cheese, hot honey mustard and chipotle aioli.
"Gouda pickles with chipotle aioli are the number one selling menu item year-round," said Belquist. "We use dill pickle spears with smoked gouda cheese, then they're fried in a crispy egg roll wrapper." Brew also has daily soup specials year-round, six salads and five Pub Plates with items like steak frites, bbq ribs, pork tenderloin and beer-battered fish and chips.
Let's do Brunch!
Because brunch is always a good idea, Brew has just started offering a brunch menu that can be ordered from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. Fridays and Saturdays. Try their Corned Beef Hash, Breakfast Poutine, or Breakfast Tacos with egg, pork sausage, cheddar, guacamole and cilantrapeño. If you need a little more kick, try the Spicy Creole Hash, or the Hangover Burger with peanut butter and jelly, egg and bacon. They also have Brew Beignets and Avocado Sourdough Toast with roasted tomato, red onion and smoked gouda.
Mini Brunch Flights
If you decide to pair your breakfast with Brew's new Mini Brunch Flight, you won't regret it. This $13 cocktail flight is a tasty offering of Pineapplemosa, Pizza Mary, Tropical Screw-up, and a Toasty Roaster made with Stumbeano's cold press coffee and macadamia nut liqueur.
Hot summer days are made for chill sips from Brew's 24 beers, including Perham brewer, Cyrus Bickell of Disgruntled, and Brett Doebbeling's Drastic Measures Brewing out of Wadena, Minn. You'll also find 24 house-crafted cocktails, along with seven ice cream and sorbet float options. One of their most popular summer drinks is the Rhubarb Spritzer with Absolut Citron, housemade rhubarb simple syrup, fresh lemon and lime juice, Sprite and club soda. Not a fan of rhubarb? Test your taste buds with their Lavender Lemon Sangria, Ginger Mojito, Spicy Skinny Margarita or Key Lime Pie Martini.
"We have the best staff and so many who have been with us from day one," said Belquist. "We really like research and development, so it's been fun to work with the team, collaborating on the cocktail menu, and coming up with a ton of great ideas that people haven't seen before. Annie and Cassie worked hard to fine-tune the recipes and put it all together."
Brews + Boutiques
"We love being in Perham - you cannot beat this downtown," said Belquist. "It's definitely a destination with so many different boutiques, gift shops, salons, coffee shops and home design stores. Everyone works so well together and our chamber of commerce and EDA do an awesome job bringing ideas for different events to draw people here, even in the winter months. We've also started working with Sarah Carlson of Theisen Design Studios to give the restaurant a facelift with new interior paint, new bar front and new furnishings!"
"I remember about eight years ago when I told people where I lived that I was going to work for Brew; they said no one would want a craft beer bar. Perham is different, it's a really progressive community for being such a small town. They do want new, exciting things and it's a really passion-driven community," said Cassandra Hahn, Brew Restaurant's District Manager.
Patio, Indoor & To-Go!
With Minnesota's strict guidelines for dining out, Brew Ales & Eats is taking every precaution to ensure a safe dining experience inside and on the patio. "We screen all of our employees before they clock-in and everyone wears masks. We use single-use menus and we're still at 50 percent capacity with tables six feet apart," said Belquist. "We also have hand sanitizing stations at each entrance." This month, they still may have limited hours, so before you dine, check their Facebook page for updates.
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