An industry veteran and his friends create some buzz along the Mighty Mississippi.
by Brian Kaufenberg
Tucked away in the picturesque river town of Winona, Backwater Brewing was quietly brewing beer since 1995. Few people recognize them as a pioneer of the Minnesota brewing renaissance, but Backwater Brewing was making beer when there were only a handful of breweries in Minnesota. Located inside Wellington’s Pub and Grill, the brewpub started when Chris Gardner, son of Paul “Wellington” Gardner, successfully pitched the idea while managing the restaurant and bowling alley. Gardner completed courses at the Siebel institute and began brewing.
After 18 years, Backwater Brewing closed its brewery doors, but Gardner is not hanging up his brewing gear. Instead, he has teamed up with two friends from Stuartville—homebrewers Steve Barber and Dave Weinhold—to open a new brewery in Goodview called Wenonah Brewing.
After clearing their name with the local business, Wenonah Canoe, the trio began the search for a location. They settled on the old B&B Grocery in Goodview with a little help from serendipity. “We looked around and saw a grain on the floor and said bingo,” chuckles Gardner.
The trio has built out the space to accommodate their 1 bbl nano-brewhouse and 2 bbl fermenters as well as include a 30–40 person taproom where patrons can purchase pints and growlers to go. The brewery equipment has a unique history of its own. It started out with Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan before being sold to a homebrewer. Chris Gardner bought it from the homebrewer and brought it from Michigan to Backwater Brewing. The same brewhouse now graces the brewing space at Wenonah Brewing.
Gardner, Weinhold, and Barber will continue their day jobs as they get the brewery off the ground, devoting their after-hours time brewing up their flagship Wenonah Nut Brown Ale, plus a pale ale. Gardner’s tie to Wellington’s is not forgotten, as it will be the first draft account in the area to carry Wenonah’s brews.
The Brewers: Chris Gardner, Steve Barber, and Dave Weinhold
The Beer: Wenonah Nut Brown, Wenonah Pale Ale, rotating seasonals
Visit: 4065 West 6th St., Goodview, MN 55987
Hours: Thursday & Friday 4-10pm, Saturday 12-10pm
See also; This video from Fox 47: