Fargo, North Dakota:
Granite City Brewery & Restaurant
Tuesday 13th October 2009
Granite City is a chain of pubs and restaurants to be found in nearly all of the states in the upper Mid-West. The first outlet opened at St Cloud, Minnesota, in June 1999. The one I was visiting this day, in Fargo, opened its doors in November 2001. There are very few breweries in North Dakota so this was a welcome addition. However, there is no shortage of beer as residents have the second highest pro-capita consumption of any state in the USA.
Fargo's compact downtown area is about half a mile from the Minnesota state line which runs along the middle of the Red River of the North that interestingly, flows north into Canada to empty into Lake Winnepeg. It is one of those towns that experienced continual growth throughout the eighties, nineties and into the 21st century. It is now a large sprawling metropolis of well over 100,000 population. If you count in the cities of Moorhead and Dilworth over in Minnesota, the conurbation reaches more than 200,000 people.
I was on an odyssey across the northern United States by special train and it had tied up for the night at Dilworth on the Minnesota side where the railroad yards are located. I managed to hitch a lift in a chartered bus to my hotel which was the Howard Johnson in downtown Fargo.
Although I didn't know it when I booked this particular accommodation, I had picked a winner as the bar attached to the hotel was the best in Fargo when it comes to beer variety. The Sidestreet Grille and Bar had over 25 draught beers on offer, a mixture of those from national brewers but also a good number from smaller breweries in the mid-west.
Although I knew the address of Granite City I had no idea how to get there. I do now, please see below. So I got a taxi and, because my time in Fargo was rather limited, I'm glad I did. I have no real idea how far away the pub was, but after riding there, I would guess it was around six or seven miles. It is located just south of the massive and sprawling West Acres Shopping Mall, at the intersection of 17th Avenue S and SW 42nd Street.
I soon found a stool at the bar and looked around. The brewery was located to one side and there was a very large dining area behind me.
There were five beers available and these were Northern Light Lager (4.5%); Brother Benedict's Bock (5.1%); Wag's American Wheat (4.7%); Duke of Wellington Pale Ale (5.2%) and Broad Axe Stout. They were advertising a seasonal beer but there wasn't one available.
I ordered a sampler set of all five and this what I thought of them. The lager was exactly what I'd expected it to be like; light and bland. The bockbier was really quite good as it had a bit more bitterness than you'd expect with this type of beer. I am not a devotee of wheat beer but this also was a bit more bitter than normal. The IPA was excellent, being in the English style rather than a US version. Finally, the Stout was also very well liked.
The bartender asked me what I thought of them so I told him. He then asked if I wished to meet the brewer and of course I jumped at the chance. He took me to the brewery and made the necessary introductions. Now I have to mention something that I already knew. The start of the brewing process does not take place here but in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The wort is then transferred by road to all of the other pubs for the fermentation. By pure luck some was being delivered when I arrived at the pub, see photo above.
I was interested if this made any difference to the finished product so asked the question. He thought that it didn't make any difference at all as the yeast was pitched at Fargo and that was when the brewing started. If you look carefully at the photograph right you'll see a label on the tank that states tax has not yet been paid. He said that if it was brewed in Sioux Falls there would be tax to pay in two states. I said my thanks and returned to the bar.
I then had a pint each of my two favourites, the stout and the IPA before the taxi arrived to transport me back to the beery delights of the Sidestreet Bar.
If one was in a big town or city with many choices of beer and breweries then I would suggest that Granite City would be someway down a hit list. But in Fargo it is a "must visit". Note: since this was written a company called Fargo Brewery has started up, giving some much needed choice here.
Granite City Brewery and Restaurant, 1626 SW 42nd Street, Fargo, North Dakota, 58103
Tel: 701 293 3000
Open: Monday-Thursday 11.00-24.00; Friday-Saturday 11.00-01; Sunday 09.00-24.00
Happy Hours: Monday-Friday 15.00-18.00; Saturday-Sunday 12.00-17.00;
Four bus routes serve West Acres. The 23 (purple) doesn't serve downtown. The 16 (sky blue) is reasonably direct but only runs hourly Monday to Friday, not evenings. The 14 (red) gets you there but goes such a long way round that it isn't worth it. Finally the 15 (yellow) is the one to use. Every 15 minutes Monday to Friday during the day, every half hour on other days and evenings. The downtown bus station in Fargo is known as GTC (Ground Transportation Centre) is to be found at 502 NP Avenue, just south of the centre.
Fargo has a regional airport with a number of flights to cities in the Mid West. Fargo Amtrak railroad station is to be found at N 5th Avenue, just north of downtown. It is served by the daily Empire Builder train from Portland and Seattle to Minneapolis / St Paul and Chicago & vice versa.