Moorhead isn’t known as much of a destination, even when lumped in with neighboring Fargo. While there are few notable restaurants, craft beer seekers shouldn’t write the cities off entirely. Fargo Brewing Company has been distributing cans for a few years, and a handful of other startups are rising to the surface. Junkyard Brewing Company, founded by the brothers Aaron and Dan Juhnke, opened its taproom last year and is offering about ten beers at a time on the Minnesota side of the border.
Our first introduction to Junkyard brewing happened in the fall at the Autumn Brew Review beer festival. The barreled variation on their Belgian strong, Free Candy, turned heads amid a sea of incredible beers.
Visiting Junkyard’s brewery and taproom dispels any fears that it could be a one-hit wonder. Its rotating list is a new idea for many locals. “Some people come in here looking for the one beer they liked,” Aaron Juhnke (pictured above) explains. To avoid disappointing their regulars when a favorite beer rotates out, the brothers encourage them to experiment based on their taste.
Last weekend’s list displayed plenty of variety, from German pilsner to Baltic porter, with plenty in between. The array of choices is in part a result of brewing on such a small system — just three barrels at a time. (Indeed Brewing, by comparison, brews on a 30-barrel system and produces multiple batches per day).
The experimental sours from Junkyard have been hugely successful. They are made by allowing the natural organisms found on the grains to ferment in a warm vessel in a kind of oatmeal-meets-biochemistry way. The current sour is made with apricot puree, appearing as apricot jam on the nose and a sour nectar in the mouth, all with a well-developed funk.
For more sweet than sour, opt for the Coal Miner’s Daughter, a toasty stout that has become a crowd favorite. It possesses a moderate body and a very nice balance of flavor — vanilla, coffee, and chocolate exist together beautifully. The stout was also aged in Crown Royal whiskey barrels, and both versions are available in growlers now.
On the lighter end of the spectrum is the German pilsner made with traditional ingredients plus simcoe hops added at the end of the brewing process, a technique called “dry-hopping.” Because the additional hops are added so late, the result is extremely aromatic rather than profoundly bitter. The dry, crisp finish is the mark of flawless brewing technique, and there are no errors here to speak of.
Junkyard was forced to pull back some of its growler filling and keg distribution because demand in the taproom has been pushing the limits of the small operation. We would not be surprised to see a significant expansion in the near future from the only brewery in Moorhead.
Other reasons to visit include the nightly live music featuring both local and traveling musicians. On the horizon is a plan to collaborate with the Twin Cities’ Dangerous Man Brewing and Lino Lakes’ HammerHeart in a smoky, dark specialty release.
Junkyard Brewing, 1416 1st Ave N, Moorhead, MN; 701.936.5545