Ninkasi. Where beer toting baby mamas, visiting Englishmen and food cart enthusiast go to “worship the goddess.”
Ninkasi Brewing Company is so much more than a brewery that crafts exceptional beer. The tasting room on Van Buren St. provides something far greater than a place to quench your thirst. Working for Ninkasi means more than getting a paycheck. Ninkasi is a culture, a community, and a beer to celebrate. And let me tell you, that even as a wine and vodka drinker, I walked away wanting to join the culture, feel the community, and celebrate the beer.
Ninkasi is named after the Sumerian goddess of fermentation, and the Ninkasi Brewing Company is her house of worship. It was obvious within minutes that everyone is welcome to join in on the worship. Girlfriends spoke joyously, catching up with babies on their hips and beers in their hands. Elderly Englishmen sat ordering tastes of everything on tap, while joking about their personal contribution to an increase in Ninkasi sales. And a couple questioned the staff intently, interested in discovering which beer perfectly paired with the nightly food cart setting up shop on the patio.
My friend and I truly enjoyed picking the brains of the very friendly tasting room staff, Jules and Winter. Jules had a real ease about her. She managed to answer all of our questions, while still tending the bar and helping others. She was quite knowledgeable about the beer and aided us in picking the five to sample. We tasted the Spring Reign, the Radiant Ale, the Glen’s Bitter, the Total Domination IPA and the Vanilla Oatis. All five were quite tasty, but the Radiant Ale (their current seasonal release) was superb.
When we were done tasting, Jules was kind enough to set up a tour with the oh-so-knowledgeable and passionate Winter. Winter greeted us with some snazzy protective glasses and lead us deep into the heart of the brewery. This is apparently where “the magic happens.” To be completely honest with you, Winter lost me fairly early in his tour. He was using words I had never heard before and I was mesmerized by the production that was going on around me. I was especially intrigued by the obvious enjoyment exuding from the employees. From the guy aiding the bottling machine to Winter and his giddiness over the beer clarification process, it all seemed a little Santa’s Workshopesque.
To say the least, we had a wonderful visit to Ninkasi and even feel that we are now a part of the culture and the community. And if you find yourself visiting Ninkasi, be aware that what you are drinking isn’t Kool-Aid; it’s beer to celebrate.