Restaurateur Dale Zimmerman has an affinity for preserving our local history in his businesses. That’s why he keeps his Peacock Alley in its original location at the Patterson Hotel, and why 40 Steak & Seafood’s five dining rooms each showcase one of North Dakota’s bygone eras. It’s also why when the city determined that the old Northern Pacific Railway Depot was in dire need of resuscitation as a public gathering space, Dale was happy to jump at the opportunity. He and his wife bought the old building four years ago and got right to work.
“Edwinton Brewing Company is actually older than its current location,” explained Dale. “It started out when the Nelson family, Edwinton’s original owners, launched their inaugural beer at the Peacock five years ago. We had thought it wasn’t right for Bismarck to be without a brewery, especially in light of the fact that North Dakota consistently ranks among the states with the highest average beer consumption. Unfortunately Edwinton didn’t have the space it needed back then, but when we got the go-ahead to open in the Depot, I bought the brewing company so that I could do things the way I envisioned them.”
While its location and atmosphere may be deeply rooted in history, the way Edwinton’s beer is crafted is a testament to just how far we’ve progressed as a species. Their state of the art brewing system was custom tailored for its location by Canadian company SmartBrew, and is embedded with electronics so that it can be supervised remotely by world-renowned brewmaster Brian Watson all the way from his home in New Zealand. The impressive array means that Edwinton’s beers never deviate from the recipes that make them so good.
“When you’ve got the man who used to be a brewmaster for Heineken in charge of your own, you never have to worry about inconsistency or waste,” explained Dale. “To this day we haven’t had to pour even one drop of our beer down the drain because it failed to live up to our expectations. We monitor our operation closely at our local brewery, but Brian’s guidance has given us the opportunity to develop exciting new beers like our versatile Cowcatcher Amber, our full-bodied and malty Bend the Railz Scottish ale, and our Blueberry Wheat, which I admit has the most unoriginal name in the world — but it has become so popular that I wouldn’t dare to change it.”
Part of the theory behind Edwinton’s success is that a brewery should have something for everyone to enjoy. They’ve five different India pale ales on tap including the less hoppy and more accessible Training Wheels, an Imperial Stout, a Belgian witbier, and several seasonal quaffs which showcase the Peace Garden State’s singular terroir. They’ve even got a full bar beyond beer to keep the piña colada crowd happy as well. Another neat thing about Edwinton is their food: Because the brewery was founded by a restaurant man through and through, the tremendous thought put into their menu is apparent.
“Drinks alone aren’t enough to separate you from the pack,” said Dale. “You’ve got to create a gourmet experience to keep people wanting to come back. That’s why I traveled the country prior to the Edwinton’s opening looking for distinctive flavors to pair with our beers, and worked closely with the executive chefs of 40 and Edwinton (the latter of which, coincidentally, is also from New Zealand) to come up with a one-of-a-kind menu. Our fare is a departure from what you might expect from an everyday bar to offer, all fresh and made to order, with no microwave in sight. We’ve focused especially on dishes that you can share, since that’s so central to any social drinking occasion.”
It’s heartening to see that Bismarck knows how to hold on to her treasures. The Edwinton will surely see that the old Depot may enjoy countless new visitors for years more to come. You’d be well advised to visit if for no other reason than to try the brewery’s Blueberry Wheat, a beer that has become so popular that not even Dale, its strongest proponent, could have anticipated it. Please visit edwinton.com to learn more about the downtown destination.
By David Scheller