Searching for Enlightenment at Every Brewery in Minnesota

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Searching for Enlightenment at Every Brewery in Minnesota

Minnesota’s 56 Brewing is an off-sale production brewery in one of the shittiest industrial enclaves in Northeast Minneapolis. It’s no one’s idea of a sanctuary. Most people out sunning themselves on the astro-turf patio are there for a run of samples and a souvenir pint glass, but not Katelyn Regenscheid. Over the past year, she’s discovered that there’s much more to be tapped at your local brewery than just the beer.

Namely, spiritual awakening. She’s come to 56 to find her next barstool Aristotle.

A graduate of St. Olaf College in 2015, Regenscheid was searching for purpose when she founded Beer & Life, a blog that follows the Anoka, Minn., native as she journeys to every brewery in her home state to collect advice from the strangers she encounters. So far, she’s visited 33 of the state’s 110-plus beer-makers, collecting life-affirming nuggets like “live for the story” and “say yes more often.” But what she hasn’t elucidated is why she’s seeking this wisdom in breweries.

“There’s something about the beer world that is just so human,” Regenscheid tells me over a sampling of 56’s NE Nectar. “A brewer puts their life and their personality into the beer. It’s a natural place for life stories to intersect.”

Regenscheid is not a beer expert, and her entries on Beer & Life are not critique. The blog is less of a beer nerd’s journal and more of a wistful travelogue — a glimpse into the developing life of an affable beer drinker determined to write the Tao of the brewery.

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Kate Regenscheid in 56 Brewing

It was her full-time job as a social media marketing consultant that got her (as someone who’d visited fewer than five breweries in her life) interested in the beer world. After working with Rochester’s Forager Brewing, she became enamored with the cooperative, creative environment breweries offered. She was also struck by the sheer number of good stories she got from the people who worked there. So she started toying with the idea of pilgrimaging to every corner of the state to see if it held up.

“I don’t know what the hell made me decide it was a good idea to go to every craft brewery in the state,” she says. “But I said I was gonna do it enough times that I was like, ‘Well, you can’t not do it now.’ So, I found a WordPress theme, and started working.”

Regenscheid and her boyfriend went to two breweries the night she decided to start the site. The first was South Minneapolis newcomer LynLake Brewery. There, she probed a beer-tender named Wes, who with very little prompting, opened up to her about his life philosophy. “Drinking beer in moderation,” he told her, preaching his personal dogma of responsible indulgence. “Drink great beer in moderation,” he told her. The experience eclipsed all her expectations.

“The process of people giving advice, it’s a really good reminder that everyone has a story,” she says. “Their lens for viewing the world is so different than mine. I try to let this process inform how I see other people.”

Beer-tenders are a frequent source of advice for Regenscheid, though she’s polled everyone from head brewers to fellow patrons for their guidance. So far, only one brewhouse philosopher has failed to understand exactly what’s at hand.

Regenscheid has seen the malaise and disenchantment of post-college life. Even though she’s got a good job and an apartment, she knows that 22 is the age where most people trade their optimism for the cynicism that defines the business world. It’s easy to shut yourself out to the random enlightenment of your surroundings and call it realism, and that’s the snare that Beer & Life was built to avoid.

“Something I’ve been learning as a post-grad adult is that it’s really important to be willing to be open,” she says, finishing another in a line of samples. “Otherwise, you end up having a lot of really fake conversations. That’s just dumb. I don’t wanna have a life like that.”

Beer & Life has taught Regenscheid plenty of micro-lessons like that. The motto “begin before you don’t,” given to her by a barkeep named Emily at Able Seedhouse & Brewery, is something she’s incorporated into her personal dogma, and she’s readjusted her comfort zone to encompass everyone from Uber drivers to the head of the American Association of Woodturners. But the blog isn’t necessarily for her own benefit. It’s a way for Regenscheid to make sure that the wisdom she extracts can find it’s way to anyone else who might think a barroom is no place to get into polemics.

“Life ain’t perfect, but 56 is.” That’s the bumper sticker philosophy Regenscheid gets from 56 Brewing CTO Joe Wirth. A near-perfect number, 56 is a symbol that’s followed Wirth his whole life. He’s built his brewery on fate and serendipity, he says, offering Regenscheid a platitude about throwing yourself into your vocation and surrendering to destiny.

Regenscheid smiles and nods along, taking the note down in her phone. She knows there are still more than 80 more stops across 86,000 square miles before she’s done, but in that moment, it feels like a point of completion.

The original story included an error about an employee of LynLake battling alcoholism. The error has been corrected. We regret the mistake.

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