Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Loving the settings & beer at these greater Minnesota breweries July 14, 2017

A flight of craft beer from F-Town Brewing in my community of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FIVE YEARS AGO if anyone had suggested I would drink (and like) craft beer, I would have laughed. I was only the occasional have-a-beer-with-your-pizza or on a hot summer evening type of beer drinker. And at that, I drank whatever mass produced beer the husband had stocked in the fridge.

How my tastes have changed. I can no longer drink beer that flows by the gallons into bottles or cans inside a sprawling factory. Those beers taste like water to me. Rather, I’ve become a beer snob, preferring hoppy IPAs crafted at small breweries.

I’ll be the first to tell you my preference for craft beer developed over time as an acquired taste. But once acquired, I was hooked, enough so that I, along with my husband, seek out craft breweries. These specialty businesses are an experience, not just a place to try new beers.

 

Reads Landing Brewing Company in Reads Landing, Minnesota.

 

Two recent road trips took us to Reads Landing Brewing Company (between Lake City and Wabasha) and to Imminent Brewing Company. They are distinctly different breweries, but both with excellent beer. And I don’t say that about every craft beer.

We almost missed the Reads Landing establishment in the same named unincorporated community along U.S. Highway 61 in southeastern Minnesota. The brewery sits at the base of a hillside, a train track away from the Mississippi River. Housed inside an historic 1870 former dry goods store, the setting hearkens to bygone days. As an appreciator of old buildings, I delighted in the location and the wide window view of the Mississippi.

 

Randy and I shared a sampler flight of Reads Landing beer.

 

With the exception of slow service on a weekday afternoon when the place wasn’t overly busy, I rate Reads Landing Brewing highly. Randy and I settled onto high chairs at the front window for a perfect view of the river and a slow moving train. Then we waited and waited until the bartender/waiter finally got off the phone, noticed us and then made excuses for his lack of attention. Thankfully, the house-made beers in the sampler flight and accompanying Bavarian Style Soft Pretzel Sticks with homemade beer cheese and mustard dipping sauces compensated for the inattention and left us with a mostly good impression of this brewpub.

Of special note is the Cap’n Amber beer, a beer into which Cap’n Crunch cereal is incorporated in the mash. All of the beers were to our liking; we’d recommend this beer and brewery.

 

The patio outside Imminent Brewing Company in Northfield, Minnesota.

 

Farther inland to the north and east in the riverside college town of Northfield, we checked out the recently-opened Imminent Brewing. I love this place, declaring to Randy that this was my absolute favorite brewery. Located in a former National Guard Armory garage, the brewery has an industrial look and a welcoming vibe. There’s just something about this place that seems particularly comfortable for anyone from a blue collar worker to a college professor.

The brewery also features an expansive patio. And, bonus, food trucks. On this particular weekday evening, Randy and I enjoyed arepas from Noris Cuisine. We didn’t stick around for the live music.

We shared a flight sampler of simply superb craft beers. We’ll be back, given the location some 15 miles from our home.

And we’ll be checking out Tanzenwald, the other new brewery in Northfield, sometime soon.

TELL ME: Do you drink craft beer and/or visit craft breweries? Share your favorites.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Dresbach & Dakota, that would be in Minnesota June 27, 2017

Following Interstate 90 along the Mississippi River bluffs in southeastern Minnesota.

 

IN THE MANY YEARS I’VE TRAVELED Interstate 90 along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border in southeastern Minnesota, I’ve never exited to explore Dresbach or Dakota.

That changed this past spring when Randy and I were returning from a day trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Time allowed for the pull off onto Riverview Drive which passes through unincorporated Dresbach and Dakota, population 323 or thereabouts.

 

We pulled off Riverview Drive and curved the van to a small riverside park in Dresbach where I took this photo of the Mississippi.

 

Traffic signs in Dresbach.

 

Leaving Dresbach, I noticed this lengthy, leaning retaining wall.

 

We did a drive through with thoughts of returning again to poke around more. Both villages sit along the western bank of the Mississippi River between La Crosse and Winona, in Minnesota. The river setting is scenic, beautiful, worthy of a second look when the weather warms and river traffic increases.

 

A welcoming sign outside a business in Dakota. That’s quite a name, Trynowski.

 

Holy Cross Church in Dakota.

 

A well-preserved former corner gas station in Dakota that I found absolutely charming.

 

I snapped a few quick photos from the van and called it good. While both villages deserve more of my photographic study, this is a start.

TELL ME: Have you ever driven through/visited Dresbach or Dakota? If yes, what should I see the next time I’m in either community.

If anyone can provide information about any of the places photographed here, please share.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part V from La Crosse: A final look at downtown March 29, 2017

 

IN ONE FINAL PHOTO sweep through downtown La Crosse, I present a collage of images.

 

 

I am drawn to signs and architecture, to distinct characteristics which define a town’s personality.

 

 

 

 

La Crosse is a river town, storied in history. You can see that in the aged buildings which flank streets that bend, like the Mississippi River. History holds a place of honor within this downtown.

 

 

 

 

Yet, this Wisconsin city is not stodgy, existing only in the past. Rather, La Crosse is like a sometimes flamboyant relative claiming attention with loud colors and signs and messages. I doubt I’ve ever seen more vivid and unique signage in a small Midwestern city.

 

 

 

But that does not surprise given La Crosse’s considerable number of downtown drinking establishments. Wisconsinites love their booze. And this is a college town. Visit in the daytime or early evening and you can avoid that whole bar scene, although remnants of night life may linger the morning after with beer in a glass outside a bar door. (True sighting.)

 

 

 

 

La Crosse seems, too, part big city urban yet rooted in rural. Somehow the blend works in a downtown that draws all ages.

 

 

FYI: Please check back for one more post in this “From La Crosse” series as I take you to one of the city’s most notable natural landmarks.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part I from La Crosse: The historic downtown through my camera lens March 22, 2017

Crossing the Mississippi River from La Crescent, Minnesota, into La Crosse, Wisconsin.

 

WITH MY APPRECIATION of historic buildings, La Crosse, Wisconsin, has become a favorite occasional destination. This Mississippi River town bordering Minnesota is about a half-way meeting point between my Faribault home and my second daughter’s home in eastern Wisconsin. We recently met there for a Saturday afternoon of dining and exploring.

 

Nearing downtown La Crosse.

 

I love shopping in La Crosse. Mostly photoshopping. While the rest of the family focuses on getting from one shop to the next, I am constantly distracted by the endless photo opportunities. “Go ahead, I’ll catch up,” I repeat.

 

Entering the historic downtown.

 

Signage painted on buildings draws my eye.

 

Some communities restrict signage on historic buildings. But in downtown La Crosse, anything seems to go, creating a visually diverse landscape of signs that pop color and interest into the streetscape. It works, adding character to this downtown.

 

Then I stand and swing my camera lens upward to photograph architectural details, vintage lettering on buildings and the many colorful and creative signs that landmark downtown businesses.

 

Downtown La Crosse is one busy place. On-street parking is a challenge to secure. However, four parking ramps are situated in the downtown and offer free parking on weekends. Same goes for street parking. The downtown features lots of one-way streets.

 

Everywhere you look, there’s something to catch a photographer’s eye.

 

Bridesmaids head for an ice cream treat at The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor, a must-stop ice cream shop and more along historic Pearl Street. Love The Pearl’s homemade ice cream.

 

Or I keep my camera at street level, capturing streetscapes. This downtown pulses with people and traffic.

 

Outside Kroner True Value Hardware store.

 

The day after St. Patrick’s Day, I spotted this cup of green beer on a window ledge in a bar. I also saw a glass of beer outside a bar entrance. Downtown La Crosse is packed with bars, I believe the highest per capita of any U.S. city, according to numerous online sources. (Google it.)

 

The ultimate (in my opinion) “I’m from Wisconsin” t-shirt showcased in the window of The Cheddarhead Store on Pearl Street.

 

Occasionally I direct my lens down to at-my-feet details or toward window scenes.

 

This colorful signage welcomes downtown visitors to Historic Pearl Street West.

 

I photographed this barge on the Mississippi River which edges downtown La Crosse.

 

The dining options in La Crosse are many, including Big Boar Barbecue. No, I haven’t eaten there. Yet.

 

Downtown La Crosse truly rates as a photographer’s/visitor’s dream—if you love historic river towns with aged, detailed architecture; colorful signage; character; diverse dining and drinking options; and a variety of unique shops.

FYI: Please check back for more posts from La Crosse.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Winona, Part V: Along the Mississippi January 12, 2016

A barge floats near the Mississippi River bridge that connects Minnesota and Wisconsin in Winona.

A barge floats near the Mississippi River bridge that connects Minnesota and Wisconsin in Winona. A new bridge is under construction next to the old one shown here and is expected to be completed this year. The old bridge will then undergo renovation. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

IN MINNESOTA’S SOUTHEASTERN most tip, the Mississippi River flows alongside bluffs, edging small towns and cities. Like Winona. The Mighty Mississippi shaped this island sandbar, today a destination for those who appreciate history, art, architecture, stained glass and more. Sometimes folks come just for the river.

Someone chalked the Levee Park sign much to my delight.

Someone chalked the Levee Park sign much to my delight. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

On a brief visit to Winona in September, my husband and I watched river traffic from Winona’s downtown Levee Park as twilight tinged the sky pink.

The Winona Tour Boat offers river cruises. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo September 2015.

The Winona Tour Boat offers river cruises. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

There’s something incredibly soothing about water. Mesmerizing really. Like a lullaby or poetry or the refrain of a favorite song.

The White Angel tugs a barge.

The White Angel tugs a barge. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

Water transports thoughts to a quiet place.

Winona State University's Cal Fremling boat also offers river cruises with a focus on education. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo September 2015.

Winona State University’s Cal Fremling boat also offers river cruises with a focus on education. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

Or a place of adventure, sans Huckleberry Finn. Who hasn’t dreamed of clamoring aboard a raft and leaving everything behind?

As the sun sets, Winona State University's Cal Fremling boat passes under the Mississippi Rover bridge in Winona. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

As the sun sets, Winona State University’s Cal Fremling boat passes under the Mississippi Rover bridge in Winona. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

Days flow like a river, sometimes straight and true, other times twisting and turning through a torrent of troubles.

Boathouses as photographed from Levee Park in Winona. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

Boathouses as photographed from Levee Park in Winona. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, September 2015.

On this September evening, peace ran like a river past Winona, through my soul…

The old Mississippi River bridge in Winona. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo 2015.

The old Mississippi River bridge in Winona. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo 2015.

diminishing all thoughts of a bridge over troubled waters.

FYI: Tomorrow I conclude my series from Winona.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Winona, Part IV: Uniquely Winonan January 11, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,
Pulling a barge down the Mississippi River in Winona in September 2015.

Pulling a barge down the Mississippi River in Winona in September 2015.

WINONA IS A RIVER TOWN. A college town. A place of history, historic buildings, memorable businesses. And more, much more.

A few cars, some vintage, managed to sneak into the drive-in among all the tractors.

My award-winning photo taken at the Lakeview Drive Inn. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

I’ve savored homemade root beer at the iconic Lakeview Drive Inn in Winona.

Bloedow's Bakery is located at 451 E. Broadway St. in Winona.

Bloedow’s Bakery is located at 451 E. Broadway St. in Winona. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo September 2014.

I’ve tasted a bacon-topped, maple-iced long john from Bloedow’s Bakery.

Worn, vintage business signage always catches my eye.

Worn, vintage business signage always catches my eye.

And I wish I’d had time to duck into Sloppy Joe’s Liquor to grab a beer and maybe a sloppy joe, if the sandwich is served there, and to hear the story behind the bar’s name.

I shot this scene of The Penguin Zesto in September 2015.

I shot this scene of The Penguin Zesto in September 2015.

The same goes for The Penguin Zesto. What’s with that name? The drive-in was closed when I visited Winona. No ice cream for me on that September day. Only questions. I always have questions.

Winona has some lovely old homes, this one photographed in September 2015.

Winona has some lovely old homes, this one photographed in September 2015.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for another post in my series from Winona.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring La Crosse Part V: A great place to visit October 26, 2015

Pearl Street in historic downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Pearl Street in historic downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin.

ON THE FRIDAY and Saturday I visited La Crosse, Wisconsin, the city pulsed with people. Driving. Walking through the downtown. Dining. Everything I saw pointed to a vibrant community of some 51,000.

A billboard in La Crosse depicts the natural appeal of this Mississippi River city.

A billboard in La Crosse depicts the natural appeal of this Mississippi River city.

The La Crosse Queen offers cruises on the Mississippi River.

The La Crosse Queen offers seasonal cruises on the Mississippi River. The paddlewheeler docks in Riverside Park near downtown.

A bridge spanning the Mississippi in La Crosse.

A bridge spanning the Mississippi in La Crosse, photographed from Riverside Park.

This is a college town, a regional hub in western Wisconsin, a place of rugged natural beauty, especially in autumn with trees blazing color in the valley and along bluffs.

You can listen to everyday stories of the city by dialing the number posted on street level signs. In the audio, you'll hear first person accounts of events that happened at that exact location. Go ahead, dial the number seen in this image.

You can listen to everyday stories of the city by dialing the number posted on street level signs. In the audio, you’ll hear first person accounts of events that happened at that exact location. Go ahead, dial the number seen in this image.

A snippet of the historic buildings in downtown La Crosse.

A snippet of the historic buildings in downtown La Crosse.

Several businesses are housed in Pearl Street West.

Several businesses are housed in Pearl Street West.

This city presents an architecturally pleasing downtown with the five-block La Crosse Commercial Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 100 buildings in the Historic District about a block from the Mississippi River.

Downtwon La Crosse features stunning architectural details in its downtown Commercial Historic District.

Downtwon La Crosse features stunning architectural details in its downtown Commercial Historic District.

You'll find down-home shops in historic buildings. Cheddarheads offers Wisconsin-themed gifts and t-shirts focusing on cheese and the state's dairy industry.

You’ll find down-home shops in historic buildings. Cheddarheads offers Wisconsin-themed gifts and t-shirts focusing on cheese and the state’s dairy industry.

I could spend an entire afternoon simply strolling through the downtown, eyes focused upward to study curves of windows, artsy architectural details and other aspects of these mostly aged brick buildings. This community obviously cares about these stately structures of the past. And that pleases me.

Corralling wedding balloons in downtown La Crosse.

Corralling wedding balloons in downtown La Crosse.

La Crosse evokes a small town Main Street feel. Yet, for someone like me who grew up in rural southwestern Minnesota, La Crosse is anything but small. This city throbs with energy. Heavy downtown traffic. Foot and motor. Busy shops and eateries.

If I could afford the price of a downtown hotel, I would have stayed there rather than along Interstate 90 in an overpriced room (for the condition and age) in a hotel badly in need of updating.

Strolling through downtown La Crosse.

Strolling through downtown La Crosse.

I’ll return to La Crosse. I need more time in this community. More time to explore the downtown. More time to check out the parks. More time to visit museums and art centers and other places of interest. It’s one of those cities that appeals to me. It is large enough to offer lots to do, yet small enough that I feel comfortably at home.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A sign reminds me that I'm in Dairyland.

A sign reminds me that I’m in America’s dairyland.

I notice details, even graffiti on a business side door.

I notice details, even graffiti on a business side door.

This concludes my five-part series from downtown La Crosse. Check back for related posts from the area.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling