On a regular Friday night, Blue Earth's Oswald Brewery has a pretty good pack of patrons plentifully piping brews into their glasses and partaking in the local scuttlebutt.
And, being that it is in Blue Earth, newcomers to the brewery tend to stick out like a sore thumb.
On Friday, April 7, two such thumbs walked, nay, biked into Oswald's with a notebook, a camera, and a mission: to taste the brew and bike the trails.
Jan (pronounced John) and Jen Lasar, of Bowlus, Minnesota, a town of a little over 200 residents, are not only bike and nature trail enthusiasts, but beer enthusiasts as well. And they came to Blue Earth to check out Oswald's and meander around the Vera Steinberg Nature Park.
Jan just recently became the editor and publisher of "Minnesota Trails" magazine, formerly published by Dave Simpkins, while Jen helps Jan with stock photos, scheduling, and other details of their treks.
The magazine is a continuation of "Minnesota Bike Trails and Rides" published quarterly in Minnesota "with the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that acquires, protects and enhances critical lands for public enjoyment."
For the Lasars, biking has not only been an opportunity for adventure, but a mode of transportation.
"We really got into biking around five years ago," says Jan. "We found it so enjoyable, I began to write about it and was approached by Dave (Simpkins) to write for the magazine. He said I had a knack for writing and I trusted his opinion with 50 years of experience in the field. So, in 2013 he started talking about leaving, which is around the time I began taking over."
And last August, Jan became the publisher.
Jan was actually born and raised in Germany and came to the United States as a foreign exchange student. That's when he met his wife Jen, when she was 16 and he was 17. They are now 43 and 44 years old and have been married for over 15 years. Now, the two are inseparable and have embraced their brewery and biking adventures together.
When it comes to scoping out the site for their next visit, the Lasars look for a few different things. There are three specific criteria their stops require.
First, their stop has to be a place where they have not been to. Secondly, there has to be a brewery and some sort of trail or park in which they can hike, or preferably bike. And finally, they prefer the smaller towns.
"There's just something about rural Minnesota that fascinates me," says Jan. "The adventures really are in those smaller towns and communities where people know each other. It's a completely different atmosphere."
"In the Twin Cities, there are breweries every 30 feet and the atmosphere in those breweries is also different when it comes to smaller towns," says Jen. "A lot of people never venture beyond the city. We love small towns."
When it came to the Oswald Brewery, Jan said he found plenty to write about. Not only was he fond of the different brews that were available at Oswald's, he said the atmosphere was fantastic as well.
"Lots of friendly people, asking questions, getting to know our story as we got to know theirs that's what we hunt for; that is a good time," Jan says.
When it came down to the specific brews John Oswald had available, it was the apple ale that won Jan's heart, while Jen enjoyed the ever-popular Erik the Red.
"In the summer, I look for nice, crisp wheat beers while in winter I go for the darker, heavier beers," says Jan. "But the apple ale was perfect for the bright spring weather."
"And it is just incredible to learn about Vera Steinberg and the donation of the nature trail. What a great feature to Blue Earth," said Jen.
They may have only stayed for one weekend, toting their bikes around as they ventured onto Iowa where they were to meet up with friends, but it seems even just a bike around the Steinberg trail and a brew from Oswald's left enough of an impression for the Lasars to return again.
"Sometime soon," they said.