29 Oct Morning Beers at the Summit Brewery Tour
Summit Brewing Company is one of the top 50 breweries in the United States and it just so happens to be located in St. Paul, only a mere 2 miles from our apartment. Since I just can’t seem to resist a behind the scenes tour these days, I hopped online immediately and snatched up tickets after I overheard someone talking about the Summit Brewery Tour. You know, just adding another thing to the list of tours I never even knew existed until we moved back to Minnesota. OK, well I knew the brewery was there, but I never considered that they offered a tour of the facility.
The free tours book up pretty quickly, but I managed to snag us and a friend tickets to the only remaining tour option the next Saturday—a 10:30 a.m. tour. A little early for a brewery visit I suppose, but when you’re surrounded by 50+ other participants, it makes it ok, right? And, we even ran into some friends that we hadn’t seen in awhile, so I guess it was just meant to be.
Once we arrived, we checked in and were handed 4 green chips—each chip was good for a very generous sample of any of the beers on tap. You could redeem your chips before or after the tour, but could not bring a glass with you on the tour. The beers on tap consisted of a mix of the year-round brews, the seasonal brews and the limited release brews.
Our tour started out in the brew hall with a PowerPoint presentation about the history of the company. Mark Stutrud started the brewery in 1986 despite discouragement from the Brewer’s Association of America—they felt that at the time, opening up a microbrewery to compete with the big name brands was too long and hard of a road to go down. Good thing Mark didn’t listen to them, as Summit Beer now sells over 240,000 barrels of beer per year in 18 states and counting, and they have won numerous awards over the years. The company began to see success right away and has outgrown their facilities multiple times over the years. In 1998, they purchased their current lot and built a new facility to house their beer production.
After getting the low-down on the company’s history, we were then split up into two groups for a tour to see how the beer is produced. We were taken through the rooms where the boiling and fermentation happen, and don’t laugh, I know there’s a lot more than these steps, but you get the gist.
Next up was the bottling and packaging room. I loved seeing the bottling machines—it kind of felt like we were a part of Laverne and Shirley. Summit Beer has always been bottled, but they are just starting a new canning line, which is expected to be hitting shelves soon.
Not only does Summit Brewing Company make great beer, they are also an environmentally conscious company, they support the local community and have been rated a great place to work. A number of green practices have been implemented over the years to reduce water usage, reduce waste and reduce electricity consumption. I always appreciate when companies are responsible and eco-conscious. They also give 2% of their pre-tax earnings to local charities and causes. Another initiative they have is the Unchained Series, which gives their brewers the chance to create their own brews in small batches—there have been some really great beers created through this program, and I would think the brewers really appreciate the chance to let their creativity run wild.
Did I mention that the tours are free and include 4 samples per person? Their only request is that you bring a can of food for a donation to Second Harvest.
When going on the tour, you need to make sure to wear closed toe shoes for health and sanitary reasons—something that is always good for this flip-flop wearer to remember. Also, you are required to have a reservation as walk-in’s are not accepted, so make sure to make a reservation well in advance!
Have you ever toured a brewery? Which one?