Commuting out of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul on a weeknight is a grueling odyssey of weaving through construction bottlenecks, lane closures, accidents, and full-on gridlock. But as you get further away from downtown towards Waconia, the traffic eases—as does your stress—and the drive turns into a pleasant tour of winding country roads.
Pulling up to Schram Vineyards, just a few miles away from downtown Waconia, you might just lose yourself for a moment in the idyllic setting—a simple farm house, a wood-framed gazebo covering an outdoor beer garden, and a large wood paneled winery and tasting room overlooking rows of grapevines lining the hillside down to Reitz Lake.
Aaron and Ashley Schram started Schram Vineyards in 2008 on the 12.5-acre farm they purchased to fulfill Aaron’s dream of starting his own winery. Currently the vineyard has 4,000 grapevines producing nine different Minnesota cold-hardy varietals to make number of white, red, and honey wines. This year, the vineyard became the state’s first and only commercial winery and brewery when they tapped their first kegs of beer in June.
The brewery is housed in an old, whitewashed outbuilding where the original winery was located before the completion of the newly completed 4,800 sq ft winery and tasting room. Eight different beers are available on draft at the vineyard, which are made on a 1.5 bbl brewing system by a team of brewers including Phil Petersen, Aaron Lorenzen, and Nick Smith—an experienced winemaker and scientist from the University of Minnesota who is essentially the brewery’s operations manager.
There were legal questions to opening the brewery, but since there was no legislation forbidding the Schrams from operating both a winery and brewery they got the state’s approval. Now, the biggest problem for the Schrams is simply keeping up with the demand. Currently, they are upgrading to a 10 bbl brewhouse with four 10 bbl fermenters to slake the thirst of visitors from not only the Waconia area but all over the Metro area.
When the expansion is complete, the Schrams will turn their attention to creating new educational programs at vineyard such as private beer tastings and dinners, as well as creating a beer-aging program utilizing their supply of wine barrels. Once they receive the proper permits they will offer growlers at the brewery and have beer on draft at area bars and restaurants. For now, the only way to get their beer is stop down to vineyard for a pint and a game of bocce ball.
The Brewers: Phil Petersen, Aaron Lorenzen, Nick Smith, and team
The Beer: Blonde Bomber Ale, Red Barron Ale, Mocha Monkey Coffee Brown Ale, Smoking Aces Porter, Pale Rider IPA, Double Barrel IPA, Lucky Lederhosen Wheat, Gentlemen Farmer Saison
Visit: 8785 Airport Rd. Waconia, MN
Hours: Thu 5–8pm, Fri 5–9pm, Sat & Sun 12–6pm