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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Weiss weddings

"With this beer, I thee wed," intoned Victoria Savage, co-owner of Washington State's North Fork Brewpub, Pizzeria and Beer Shrine.

Does this sound too good to be true?

You're not dreaming - more breweries and brewpubs are putting the "ale" back in bridal.

It's not so much a trend, as a return to the roots of wedded romance. In the Middle Ages, you could expect to get hitched with your honey's beer in hand -- quite literally, the "bride's ale."

Now, brewpubs cater to couples for rehearsal dinners, wedding parties, receptions--even ceremonies. Some brewers, such as Savage of the North Fork Beer Shrine, Jack Joyce of Rogue Brewery in Newport Beach, Oregon, and Karen Berger of Homer Brewing Co. in Homer, Alaska, even are ordained to conduct marriages.

What makes couples choose weiss weddings? First, brewpubs and breweries that cater to couples offer great beer, a kitchen accustomed to catering, and well-designed spaces for parties.

Jenny and Ian Sadkovich of Madison, WI, chose the Delafield Brewhaus because, "We wanted our friends and family to have really great beer - we had four different kinds, all on tap."

"We wanted a more casual atmosphere, and because it was a summer wedding, we had a buffet of grilled foods, such as chicken breasts and beef, salad and appetizers," explains Jenny Sadkovich. "Our guests loved it."

Other breweries design outdoor spaces for couples and parties, too. In Illinois, the Walter Payton America's Roundhouse brewery offers a lovely courtyard beer garden and gazebo designed for receptions and weddings. August Schell Brewing Co. in New Ulm, MN, has hosted several receptions at the beautiful brick brewery mansion, with tall arbors covered in grape vines.

In Victoria, B.C. Spinnaker's offers both a fabulous brewpub with shore-side restaurant and bakery, plus private suites, perfect for the couple seeking to seal their vows ASAP.

"We've had entire wedding weekends, where all of our eleven suites are filled with members of the bridal party," says Paul Hadfield, owner of Spinnakers. "We kick off the weekend party with a brewery tour, cruise the Inner Harbor on our cocktail boat, and return dockside for dinner in the Garden Suite."

British Columbia attracts hundreds of honeymooners, so it makes sense for the brewpub to cater special events and weddings. Spinnakers acquired the Garden Suites in 1998, completely renovating the building. Tucked away quietly down a boardwalk behind the bakery of Spinnakers Pub and Restaurant, the suites are meant for adults only, with contemporary Asian furnishings and luxurious amenities. Each suite has a queen size bed with beautiful linens and down duvets, plus a jacuzzi tub with candles for evening soaks-and easy access to fabulous beer.

Hadfield looked after lots of details, from flowers, foodstuffs, even fitting rooms, for the wedding of Darlene and Phil Atkinson (see the bride in blue, above). "Darlene used one of the suites as her changing room for the wedding ceremony," recalls Atkinson, "and that's something I'd never have thought of on my own."

"It's the beer I worship," confesses Atkinson. "We deliberately held our wedding on Friday afternoon - right before Paul puts up the cask conditioned ales on draught. Chances are, most of our friends (see photo below) would have been at the pub then anyway."

Weiss weddings typically feature a wide selection of beer styles, unlike most banquet halls that restrict beverage choices to the selections from "approved" caterers. "Delafield just turned on the taps for our party, and guests had their pick of house brews, so there was a nice variety," says another Delafield groom, Bill Johnson. "Our friends all enjoy craft beer, so this was something special for them - and we had terrific food." Chef Kurt Linke produced a complete banquet with prime rib, roast turkey and "all the trimmings," according to Johnson.

That said, brewpubs can also be refreshingly casual spaces that welcome a diverse community.

Down the Mississippi in St. Louis, Tom Schlafly has had at least a dozen weddings at the Tap Room-and a few untraditional celebrations, too.

"We've had several commitment ceremonies for gay couples. In fact, in one week, we had one party for a lesbian couple and the other celebrating the ordination of a Dominican priest taking up vows with God." Schlafly says, "We designed the brewery to be an open and inviting space-and so we offer a pretty broad tent."

Make that a beer tent, for brewed bliss.

Portions of this article appeared in BREWING NEWS and online at BEER.COM.

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