Exactly how long people will gather outdoors for a beer and a bite to eat as the weather cools and the days grow shorter is hard to say. In Vienna, the beloved institution of the Würstelstand stays open all winter. You can huddle along its tiny counters with a cold beer in one hand and a hot sausage in the other while watching the snowflakes collect on your kraut. But it doesn’t get quite so cold there, either.
In Fargo and Moorhead, the heartiest of brew-philes can squeeze only so many days out of the calendar before the gardens go dark. These last few days of summer are precious. Among the more pleasant of places to spend an evening or two is Drekker's Brewhalla, with its aluminum lawn chair ambiance and its near eternal burning firepit. It has enough room to keep socially distant from the people you don’t want to get too social with, and enough opportunity to huddle with those you do.
There are other places in town, too. The Bavarian beer-tent feel of Moorhead’s Junkyard Brewing Company with its rows of tables strung along its intimate patio. Swing Barrel Brewing is known for its parking lot ambiance. Fargo Brewing Company has turned gravel parking lot chic into an institution. Not to mention the Würst Bier Hall, as close to a Würstelstand you can get in Fargo or Moorhead. And there are a dozen or more other patios where you can huddle up with hands tucked in sweatshirt sleeves to wait for winter to come.
Places like the Würst Bier Hall come with full menus, but many of the brewery patios have left some real estate for a food truck to fill the void left by a missing kitchen. Food trucks are always a hit-and-miss with meals that haven’t the benefit of much more than a galley kitchen and limited ingredients. Sometimes they charge just a little more and deliver just a little less. But, frankly, given what outdoor brewpub patios can offer this time of year, it’s often enough. And you will soon remember fondly the days you could even find a food truck.
Most of the breweries are comfortable with patrons who bring their own food, but the convenience of a food truck, and the opportunity to support a relatively new dining option in the area, means you may want to consider what it has to offer. Not long ago, food trucks were limited to the guy with the hotdog cart outside Metro Drug, and even he had to move on, as did the drug store eventually. A taco truck or two began to fill the void and now there are a number cuisines represented in mobile kitchens.
On the day we visited, Brewhalla was hosting Diamond Daisy.
The special was a pleasant, if complicated, collection of flavors billed as a Greek Burger. But what calls the heart to those who know they will crave the outdoors in the too-near future was the walleye sandwich, a simple adaptation of a traditional battered fish sandwich. For those wanting the comfort of the familiar, the grilled chicken sandwich is an option. These are prepared quickly and results can vary, but even if you order only their funky fries, it’s nice to have something to nibble on while the temperature drops.
What’s really kind of fun, even if it’s a pretty simple soft-serve concoction, is the ice cream that Brewhalla has on their beer board. It’s duplicitous of me, I know, given that I have long been a bit of a critic of the effort it takes to find a straightforward pilsner, wheat, or lager buried in the list of fruit flavored beer, but it’s a nice reminder of hot summers past, and a kind of promise that, in spite of the past two summer’s hardships, they may not be gone forever.
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.