Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Beer, conversations & creativity on a winter day in Minnesota March 5, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2018.


AS I SIPPED my double IPA at Chapel Brewing in Dundas on Sunday afternoon, I snuggled under a fleece throw inside the revamped long ago chapel. I couldn’t shake the brutal cold of the winter day, even inside this cozy, albeit not particularly warm, building. I removed my mittens, keeping my coat zipped over a flannel shirt and hooded sweatshirt.

I perched on a stool next to the wall, next to a window overlooking a snow-covered deck, snow layering locked down tables and chairs. I wondered how many months before the snow melts, before craft beer lovers will sit outdoors on the riverside deck. It’ll be awhile.

For now, they settled for glimpses of spring on a corner TV screen broadcasting a pre-season Twins game. I was in the minority with no interest in baseball. Only a lush flower commercial for Gertens drew my attention and a personal public service announcement of “Hey, look, spring.”


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2018.


They laughed. The mostly men dressed in mostly flannel shirts. Some, like me, kept their stocking caps clamped on their heads. I felt a sense of closeness in this gathering of strangers unknown to Randy and me. There’s something about the craziness of coming out on a bitterly cold March afternoon during a forever winter of too much cold and snow that builds community. We’re all in this together. We’re surviving. We’re trying to make the best of what this winter has handed us.


Inside Chapel Brewing. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2018.


And then in walked the two guys from Cannon Falls, one dressed in striped bib overalls. I flashed to my farmer dad, who would have celebrated his birthday on Monday. He’s been gone now for nearly 16 years. Dad always wore striped bibs. The stranger’s attire offered me no choice but to comment on his clothing. He’s a farmer, too. Prior to arriving at the brewery, he stopped near Medford to look at a digger dug from the snow by the seller. Now that’s gumption, braving bone-chilling cold to shop for a piece of farm equipment.


Kolsch beer served at Chapel Brewing. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2018.


The things you learn when you decide to strike up a conversation over a beer. I also learned the bibbed farmer appeared in a campaign commercial for a Minnesota politician. He showed me the clip on his phone.

When another beer drinker overhead me say I grew up in Redwood County near Vesta, he chimed in. He’s familiar with the area, having attended Southwest Minnesota State University in neighboring Marshall back in the 1970s. He knew Vesta then as “the cult town,” a term I’d never heard but which likely traces to a religious sect in my hometown. A Twin Cities area native, he didn’t fit into the ag-oriented college all those decades ago. I also learned he lost his wife a year ago and offered my sympathies.

It amazes me sometimes what I learn by observing, by starting conversations, by reaching out to people. I am, by nature, an introvert. I’d rather listen than talk about myself. But I am, by nature and by educational and professional backgrounds, curious. I notice details. I observe. And by observing and caring about others’ stories, I discover connections that spark my creativity. Even in the depth of a long Minnesota winter.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


25 Responses to “Beer, conversations & creativity on a winter day in Minnesota”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    A perfect afternoon, right?

  2. Wonder what cult would exists in that area of MN? Although from anyone out of the cities “cult” could mean anything.
    Nice that you and Randy were able to enjoy the company of others who braved that weather. I am sure the farmer got a good deal on the digger buying it in the dead of winter.LOL

    • He was referring to a particular religious sect. A cult? Not in my definition. These folks are wonderfully kind people who happen to belong to a church that has strict rules on dress, use of modern conveniences, etc. Is that a cult? I think that depends on your perspective, knowledge of these people.

  3. I have had many great conversations with strangers over a pint. I am guilty of people watching too and may overhear a conversation that peaks my interest/curiosity. Tonight is the Mardi Gras parade so will be sharing beads and celebration with the community. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. parkerozgood Says:

    I can’t wait for warmer weather to go hang out on their patio!

  5. Gunny Says:

    I have bad memories of some bad beer on cold days. I would much rather have bourbon braced egg-nog and a good cigar. But then, I was also a member of an organization that has been defined by several others as a “cult”. I would offer that it (the organization) is pretty much like a religion.

  6. I’m glad you were able to get out and about despite the weather. It’s amazing what we find out about the people around us when we strike a conversation. That’s hard for me, but I’m working on it.

  7. Almost Iowa Says:

    The character of Dundas has changed tremendously over the years, much of it for the better. Brew pubs tend to be friendlier than other bars.

  8. What a sweet post. This shows the comradery of a small close-knit town like yours. Lovely. Thanks for sharing! ❤

  9. Bella Says:

    wow who knew all you could learn striking up a conversation over a beer on a wintry day

  10. pkpm519 Says:

    I grew up on a farm south of Dundas. I voted in my very first election in this building, which was the Bridgewater Town Hall at the time. My Dad’s repair shop was kitty-corner from this building. Dad is gone, as his business…and several nice houses now are there. I love being part of your excursions! Always interesting and fun!

    • Thank you for sharing your personal connection to Dundas and specifically to the building that now houses Chapel Brewing. It’s a lovely little building to which the brewery folks have paid homage in keeping the historic look and feel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.